Origin: Highlands (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry first fill
Added coloring: No
Owner: International Beverage Holdings
Average price: € 80.00
Official website: www.balblair.com
Here is a distillery you don’t get to read a lot about, one of the so-called “minor” distilleries, certainly not because of its production capacity (about 1,800,000 litres) but for its evident lack of appeal to the public.
And to think that Balblair is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland (the second oldest after Glenturret), founded in 1790 by John Ross on his family’s land at Balnagowan, and run by his family with good fortune (also thanks to the construction of a railway nearby) until almost the end of the nineteenth century. In 1894 the business was bought by Alexander Cowan, a wine merchant from Inverness, who expanded it considerably, but the following year decided to move it half a mile north to take advantage of the railway, placing it at its present site in Edderton (but continuing to use the waters of the Ault Dearg at the original site, to the detriment of those closer by).
Like many other distilleries, production stopped in 1911, with the last bottle leaving the warehouse in 1932. After being occupied by the army during the Second World War, the distillery reopened in 1948 thanks to Robert James “Bertie” Cumming, a Banff lawyer, who bought it the following year. Bertie invested heavily in the distillery, enlarging production and warehouses, and continued to run it until it was sold in 1970 to Hiram Walker (who later founded Allied Distillers), who in turn sold it to the current owners, Inver House Distillers in 1996.
In 2007, Balblair decided to produce only NAS, in which only the vintage (the year of distillation) is indicated, except just last year when it returned to the indication of ageing.
In the basic portfolio we find bottles of 12, 15, 18 and 25 years, as well as a Travel Collection with the same ages except for 18 years, replaced by 17.
A curiosity: Balblair has one of the oldest distillation ledgers, with the first entry made by Ross himself on 25 January 1800, which reads “Sold to David Kirkcaldy of Ardmore, a gallon of whisky at £1.80.”
Deep gold in the glass, with copper highlights.
It spent only the finishing in the former Sherry casks, and it may be because they were first-fill, but the nose is very noticeable: ripe fruit in profusion with peaches, plums and red fruits, nutmeg and a marked balsamic accent, sweet and fresh at the same time. Almost fit for a tart. Wood shavings in the background.
And fruit remains queen on the palate too, a warm and dense effluvia of jam permeating the mouth, with a touch of caramel and a slight alcoholic bite. Sultanas, sour cherries, red apples. Very full, on the threshold of cloying. More wood in counterpoint, with a touch of almond.
The finish is quite long, dry and vaguely acidic, of wood and candied fruit.
A fruity bombshell that, as such, can be very pleasing or completely repelling. It’s not pandering, of course, but the Sherried influence is perhaps a little invasive, to the detriment of balance, but lovers of the genre will probably love it.