Whisky Review #72: Balblair 2000 14 Years Old Sherry Cask (TWE Exclusive)

Ahh Balblair, how much I adore thee. Considering how many stellar releases this distillery has churned out over the years, it is rather surprising to see just how underrated it is in the eyes of many.

The whiskies which the distillery produces tend to go under the radar for the most part, but sometimes there are one or two releases which make people sit up and take notice. This would definitely be one of them.

What makes this particular expression unique is that it is a sherry-matured whisky, which is unusual when you consider that Balblair is traditionally known for its bourbon-matured releases. But this would definitely be a case of not wanting to let a great cask slip out of one’s grasp.

John MacDonald, who is the distillery manager at Balblair, personally selected this first-fill sherry cask as he believed that it would be to the liking of The Whisky Exchange’s director, Sukhinder Singh. Needless to say that he was absolutely right and the chaps at The Whisky Exchange snapped up the cask in order for it to be released on their online portal as an exclusive bottling.

As I have previously delved extensively into the history of Balblair, I will not be doing the same for this and any further reviews pertaining to the distillery as it would feel rather repetitive. I would therefore encourage my dear readers to visit the following link in order to find out more about the distillery and the expressions which I have previously reviewed: Balblair.

This particular expression of Balblair was distilled in 2000 and matured in a first-fill sherry cask (#1343) for 14 years before being bottled at a natural cask strength abv of 53% by the distillery as an exclusive release for The Whisky Exchange.

So, let’s get to the review!

balblair-2000-sherry-cask-twe-exclusive
Balblair 2000 14 Years Old Sherry Cask (TWE Exclusive)

Balblair 2000 14 Years Old Sherry Cask (53% abv, TWE Exclusive)

Colour: Dark mahogany

Nose: Initial entry presents a dollop of acetone followed by rich stone fruits such as apricots, plums and peaches. There is a pronounced alcoholic note which accentuates the overall nosing experience without being intrusive and it is followed by hints of oak, dark sherry and a heaping of demerara sugar.

With time, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and bitter dark chocolate emerge and lend even more complexity to this dram. Well worn leather, hints of tobacco pouch and cherries steeped in kirsch make an appearance towards the end. An unbelievable nosing experience! (24/25)

Palate: Rich, sweet and intense on initial entry, with the dark sherry, stone fruits and acetone making a play for control of the proceedings. The sherry is sweet without being cloying and is accentuated very nicely by the acetone, while the stone fruits provide the bedrock on which everything is built.

With time, the wood spices detected on the nose emerge on the palate and provide a good level of complexity to the mix. More of the demerara sugar and bitter dark chocolate (the 99% dark variety specifically) make an appearance as time goes by and there is a hint of chewy malt on the fringes of the palate. The oakiness becomes increasingly pronounced over time and more of the tannic notes emerge towards the end, sharpening the acetone in the process. (24/25)

Finish: Long, lingering and rich on the finish, with the dark sherry, stone fruits and demerara following through to the very end and being complemented by the acetone hints, wood spices and tannins. The oakiness becomes very pronounced and there is a fair bit of bitterness which emerges towards the very end. A final salvo of dark sherry brings things to a satisfying close. (22/25)

Balance: An immensely well-balanced and complex dram which showcases a multi-faceted representation of what Balblair is capable of, especially when it comes to sherry-matured whiskies. This is a dram which is meant to be sipped slowly and savoured at the very end of a tiring day, for it is a fitting reward for a job well done. (23/25)

Rating: 93/100

I had the immense pleasure of savouring this dram at Whisky & Alement in late September last year and it was worth every dollar of the AU$38 I paid for a full dram of it. It’s a shame that there are no bottles left on sale at The Whisky Exchange (although the 1999 Sherry Cask TWE Exclusive bottle does look mighty appealing), but I guess that has to do with people actually realising how good it was and snapping it up.

If you spot this beauty at a bar, please do not hesitate to purchase a dram and try it for yourself. Chances are you will enjoy it just as much as I have!

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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