Balblair 1992 (cask 2990)

Balblair Hand Bottling 1992 (cask 2990)

I thought I knew Balblair inside out. I mean, I work with the brand for Darwin’s sake! I teach people about the product, I research it in my spare time, I’m very familiar with all the expression. At the distillery I feel at home, I know all the faces, all the names, know where the teabags are. And yet, I was recently shown just how much I still have to learn about the delicate, sweet and fragrant spirit of Edderton.

Earlier this month I was able to fill my own bottle at the distillery. Balblair now boasts a new Brand Home – a tasting area and a small shop set up in the old malting barn. At the heart of the new facility is a hand-fill cask. You know the drill, you pull a handle, stick a sticker, seal the thing. It’s all good fun but the most important thing obviously is what is actually bottled. Single American Oak, ex-bourbon cask of Balblair from 1992, sitting at a whooping 60.9% ABV. A temptation impossible to resist. I remember praising the new 2001 vintage to John MacDonald, the distillery manager, the night before the Brand Home opening event and he just smiled and told me to wait until I tried the hand-fill. And so I did. For the first time the day after the event, then again when my dad was over and then again last weeknd. Each and every time I thought: the best whisky I tried this year. And so now I’m sitting with a sizable sample and will jot down some tasting notes for you.

As to the ‘my whisky of the year’ statement, this is unofficial; in the end of the day I work for them and please take that into consideration. You may ask why I would decide to review it at all if I can’t be impartial. Well, I wouldn’t if it was available from a shop near you but to actually get your hands on one of these you have to travel to Balblair. And if you do, there is no way you wouldn’t buy a bottle anyway, right?

Balblair 1992
Single Cask (2990)
Available at the distillery
60.9% ABV
£TBC

Nose: Butterscotch and lemon curd reign supreme, the intensity is eye-watering. Muscovado sugar, marzipan and a hint of liquorice. Soft shortcrust pastry laced with vanilla and ginger. Tinned pineapples. With a fair splash of water it’s like someone is squeezing half a lemon in your face. But also more creamy maturity comes out of the hiding, manifesting itself in pistachio gelato, ripe banana and new leather. Layers over layers.

Palate: The cereal sweetness is unbelievable but quickly followed by orange bitterness and a lemony sting. Even with lots of water it still packs a punch. Creamy texture compliments intense white Haribo and Bon Bons flavours.

Finish: The finish keeps on giving; stingy at first it mellows and sweetens through banana and white chocolate leaving a vanilla aftertaste.

Overall: My favourite dram of the year. Made hair on the back of my neck stand up. It combines things I value most in a Scottish dram – great maturity, fabulous intensity and unrivalled ‘brightness’. This dram is not over-complicated, over-packaged or over-priced (price TBC but will cost between £70 and £90). If you can, make the pilgrimage and see for yourself.

Person: Kate Middleton

Lucas

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Judging honours

World Whiskies Awards Judge         Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards Judge Global Scotch Masters Judge         Scottish Whisky Awards Judge