Balblair is one of those distilleries which tends to sit on the periphery of one’s sphere of knowledge in the sense that while you may have heard of the distillery, you would be hard pressed to describe the whiskies that it produced (unless you were a fan, of course).
Having delved into some of the expressions which have been produced by the distillery over the last few years, I got the impression that they were capable of some truly great expressions as well as some which were mediocre at best.
It should probably come as no surprise that the ones which I formed a high opinion of were the ones matured in sherry casks, although it should be said that this does not mean that the bourbon matured expressions from the distillery aren’t up to scratch. The 1975 and 1999 expressions stand out as truly exceptional bourbon matured offerings from the distillery.
Having previously delved into the history of Balblair during my review of the 1975 expression (which can be found here: Whisky Review #36: Balblair 1975 32 Years Old ), I shall not rehash old information and instead jump right into the review itself.
The focus of this week’s review is the Balblair 2004 10 Years Old expression, which is a Travel Retail Exclusive that has been bottled at 46% and is available as a 1L bottle from Duty Free. It must be said that this expression was found in Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 and is available for a rather reasonable $89.
The expression is the first release of its kind and has been matured in a mixture of first-fill and refill sherry butts for a period of at least 10 years before being bottled in late 2014 for sale. Funnily enough, this expression only arrived in Singapore’s Duty Free sometime this year, which makes me wonder why it took so long to do so.
Originally, I was heading to Amsterdam via Emirates, which as everyone knows departs through Terminal 1. However, it is quickly becoming common knowledge that the Duty Free selection at Terminal 1 is abject and it really does work wonders if you arrived slightly early for your flight so that you could take the skytrain to Terminal 3 in order to check out their extended range of offerings.
Having had my eye on the Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 55 at the Duty Free, I was intent on acquiring it until I chanced upon this Balblair. The prospect of missing out on a sherried Balblair was too much to take and I traded the A’Bunadh in favour of this.
Was it a wise decision? Let the review speak for itself.
Balblair 2004 10 Years Old (46% abv, Travel Retail Exclusive)
Nose: Dense and well sherried, with a pleasant sweetness and a spiciness which is reminiscent of Christmas cake (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in particular). There is a slight vegetal hint which is somewhat unusual and yet not off-putting at all.
The alcohol note is rather apparent initially but does mellow out after given some time and air and there is a slightly meaty and savoury note to this dram which is rather enticing. (22/25)
Palate: Sweet, spicy, sherried and alcoholic in equal measure, with the richness of this dram definitely once again bringing about comparisons with Christmas cake. That being said, it does not possess the same level of Christmas cake-like richness that one would associate with a Glenfarclas 25, but that is to be expected from a dram as young as this. (21/25)
Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with a spicy and sweet note that is consistent with what has been experienced on both the nose and the palate so far. There is a slightly sour citrus note at the very end, which does add a fair bit of character to the finish. (20/25)
Balance: A relatively well-balanced and well-presented dram and it possesses quite a good combination of sweet, spicy and sherried elements which makes this an easy to drink, yet complex dram. The mouthfeel is generally oily with just a tinge of dryness towards the very end. (21/25)
While I am not entirely sure if passing this up in favour of the A’Bunadh was a wise decision (considering that I have yet to try Batch 55), I am rather happy with this purchase as it lived up with my expectations of what a sherried Balblair should possess.
While this expression is not a sherry bomb such as the Balblair 2000 bottling for The Whisky Exchange or the Balblair 1973 32 Years Old bottling for Gordon & MacPhail’s Private Collection (both of which will be review in due course on this blog), it definitely had its own character which makes it enticing and interesting enough.
I would definitely recommend this expression to anyone who is looking for something different and wouldn’t mind exploring one of the lesser known (and criminally underrated) distilleries out there.
Until the next post, have a wonderful week ahead.
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