This Balblair – around 18 years old – was available for just under £70 before it was replaced by the age statement 18 year-old for almost twice that amount. I associate Balblair with bourbon casks but this one boasts significant sherry influence: it was matured initially for around 13 years in ex-bourbon before spending its final 4-5 years in European oak sherry casks – a full-blown double maturation rather than a quick finish.
Nose: Rich dark fruit. Currants, berries. A hint of cocoa, as well as a leafy, automnal note – drying leaves on a forest bed.
Palate: Quite sweet and full-bodied. First impressions are that this is indeed a darker, richer Balblair than usual, with sherry at the forefront. This isn’t a one-trick pony, however: under the layer of sweetness and wood there are those wonderful signature citrus fruits as well as that slightly bitter note (peach stone) unique to Balblair. It takes some trial and error to find the fresh fruit – next to a light, young Balblair this seems almost like a sherry monster, but try this next to a fully sherried whisky and it’s evident that they’ve found a great balance here.
Finish: Long, with lingering notes of cinnamon and coffee.
Comments: Given how much I love the raw, more natural style of Balblair, I initially approached it with some apprehension, but I needn’t have worried – the sherry influence is managed to perfection and there is more than enough character coming through. The 2000 is no doubt a richer, more rounded whisky, but I do have a soft spot for the vibrant 2005.