And so here we are, my very first Balbair-centric whisky review. I have to admit that this distillery is very much a hidden gem, although it has of late become more prevalent in the eyes of whisky drinkers around the world.
The distillery itself was founded in 1790 in the Northern Highlands region of Scotland and belongs to an exclusive group of distilleries which were founded in the 1700s (some notable names in this group would be Bowmore, Highland Park and Glenturret).
Interestingly enough, the distillery buildings we see today were actually from a later era (1895) as the distillery was moved half a mile north and rebuilt there while the old distillery buildings were demolished.
Another interesting feature of Balblair is that they traditionally do not feature the age statements on their bottlings, instead preferring to label them according to their vintage, or the year of distillation. Another distillery which utilises this convention would be Glenrothes.
The distillery was previously owned by Allied Distillers Ltd but was purchased in 1996 by Inver House Distillers Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Pacific Spirit (UK) Ltd and which also owns Balmenach, Knockdhu, Pulteney and Speyburn distilleries.
The expression which I will be reviewing today is a Balblair 1975 which is a 32 year old whisky which has been matured entirely in what I believe is an ex-bourbon cask. There has been a second release of this vintage but it was bottled at 37 years old in 2012 and has garnered some rather rave reviews.
I sampled this dram at The Auld Alliance back in mid August and it set me back a rather reasonable SG$30 (including service charge and GST) for a half nip.
So, let’s get on with it aye?
Balblair 1975 32 Years Old (46% abv)
Colour: Old gold
Nose: Initial entry presents a nice big dollop of barley sugar and some cereal, with just a hint of allspice. Some citrus and grassy notes also emerge after some time, with just a hint of blackberries. The barley notes are the dominant feature in this one. (22/25)
Palate: Sweet, malty goodness with the barley sugar and cereal notes at the forefront. The grassy notes and just a hint of the citrus detected on the nose transfer onto the palate as well.
With time, some aniseed and herbal notes reminiscent of absinthe emerge along with some of the woodiness of the cask this dram was matured in. The herbal notes and the barley sugar intermingle surprisingly well in this case. (23/25)
Finish: Long and lingering finish, with citrus, barley sugar and the absinthe notes from the palate dominating. Very interesting dram (and somewhat unusual considering the various elements present) and something to sip and savour! (23/25)
Balance: Quite a well balanced dram considering the various complexities in play on the palate and definitely shows its age in a sophisticated way. Not your everyday dram and one that not everyone will fancy, but definitely something to experience at least once. (22/25)
As it stands, finding a bottle of this is rather difficult (and rather expensive), but not impossible. It would make for a great addition to any collection considering the age and the year of distillation and is one of the oldest expressions from the distillery in recent years.
As mentioned above, this dram is not for everyone as some will enjoy it and others won’t as much due to the rather interesting flavour profile. The herbal, almost absinthe-like note especially will throw some people off. But that being said, it is definitely worth trying at least once.
Until the next time, have a great week ahead.