I’ve reviewed one Balmenach expression in the past seven years! Such is the rarity of this distillery. Owners Inver House don’t seem to have plans to release this highly distinctive whisky as a single malt, instead keeping it a (highly valued) component for blends, adding a full body and a true Highlands character.
TWE had a 1988 Signatory Vintage release years ago, and this Balmenach 1988 recently bottled in the Whisky Sponge series seems so have the same origins.
Balmenach 33 yo 1988 (50%, Whisky Sponge 2022, refill hogshead, 211 btl.)
Nose: a very waxy and greasy start (sunflower oil, paraffin and pollen), mixed with vanilla and hay. Fresh baguettes. Hints of banana milkshake and stewed yellow apples. Heather honey and sweet herbs. Flashes of mango and pineapple come by, as well as some moist oak. A style that takes you back to the 1970s or even 1960s, excellent so far.
Mouth: the same oily, fatty style, mixing greasy leather with golden apples, dried pear peelings and bananas. Behind this is a spiciness with peppercorns and cinnamon, as well as a slightly yeasty bread note. Developing drier and slightly more austere, mineral notes towards the end. A herbal, almost medicinal edge too.
Finish: quite long, taking the mineral notes further, with a gentle bitter edge, some zesty citrus and dried herbs.
A great style, with a warm fruitiness and generous waxy notes. A great example of this old style from a unique Highlands distillery. How many years until another bottling crosses our path…? Available from Decadent Drinks.