The New Balblair Range: 12yo, 15yo, 17yo & 18yo

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First Glenrothes, and now Balblair. Until recently, both distilleries released their whisky with the vintage and bottling year emblazoned on the label, which was pretty cool if you were after your birth year or such like, but I imagine it was a real pain in the ass for the brand in terms of managing stock, let alone keeping track of how many editions of each vintage there had been. A lot of consumers also struggled to keep up with things too, and so a shift to the standard 12yo, 15yo, 18yo line up makes sense, even if it’s sad to see the end of such a unique bottling regime.

The new Balblair range consists of the aforementioned age statements, as well as a 17 year old which is exclusively available in Global Travel Retail, and a 25 year old which should be on shelves soon. The 12 year old is matured in American oak ex-bourbon and double-fired American oak casks, whilst the rest of the line up is matured initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by a finishing period in first-fill Spanish oak butts.

John MacDonald, Distillery Manager at Balblair, said: “As one of the oldest working distilleries in the Scottish Highlands, Balblair has a long and rich history of crafting premium single malt Scotch whisky. We are proud of our heritage and we will continue to honour our centuries-old traditions, but we also look forward in a quiet pursuit of perfection. Our new collection is intrinsically linked to our heritage and is testament to the place and the people behind our whisky, while being emblematic of our ‘True Highland Spirit’.”

I first tasted these whiskies as part of a Twitter Tasting a couple of weeks ago, and you can read the full conversation by searching the hashtag #BalblairWhisky on Twitter. Here’s what I thought:

Balblair 12yo
Ex-bourbon and double fired American oak casks
46% ABV
£44.95 here

Nose: Waxy citrus peels, vanilla Angel Delight, candyfloss, sawdust and some peach and mango yoghurt.

Palate: White grapes, pears, apple skins, white candy sticks and lemon zest.  Abig of root ginger, barley water and green banana too.

Finish: Freshly sawn logs, more lemon and toasted almonds.

Balblair 15yo
Ex-bourbon casks, finished in first-fill Spanish oak butts
46% ABV
£74.95 here

Nose: Manuka honey, cinder toffee, Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate and some stewed fruits – plums and apples.

Palate: Aromatic woody notes, brambles, sherry soaked fruit salad, and earthy nuttiness and some clove and cinnamon swirls.

Finish: Cherry loaf, sultanas, sweet black tea and lingering charred oak.

Balblair 17yo
Global Travel Retail Exclusive
Ex-bourbon casks, finished in first-fill Spanish oak butts
46% ABV
RRP £100

Nose: Really quite floral and perfumed to begin with, then toasted marshmallows, fresh laundry, pineapple, coconut and gentle sweet oak.

Palate: Peppery up front, then Turkish Delight, stewed apples and pears and some thick, sweet, rummy notes.

Finish: Turns dark, with espresso and chocolate.

Balblair 18yo
Ex-bourbon casks, finished in first-fill Spanish oak butts
46% ABV
£119.95 here

Nose: Very inviting – Danish pastries, Tiramisu, glazed walnuts, spiced mango chutney, toasted raisins, blackcurrant, tea leaf and polished furniture.

Palate: Juicy! Apricot, peach, nectarine, and spiced pears. Then Baclava, hot cross buns, toasted currants and some leather.

Finish: Lingering wood spice, hazelnut praline and coffee liqueur.

Overall: A very solid range indeed. Looking domestically, the 12yo isn’t a million miles away from the old 2000 and 2003 vintages – lots of bright fruit and very summery dram. The 15yo is probably my favourite of the trio. It’s nicely layered and balanced, and there’s a good depth of flavour to the dram. The 18yo comes a close second, it’s a cracking whisky but given the price point, the 15yo shades it between the two of them for me. The 17yo is one of very few whiskies that I would actually consider buying when passing through the airport. Sometimes, GTR can be a bit of a graveyard with there being a lot of whiskies available, but equally, a lot that are bland, immature or overpriced. The Balblair 17yo in none of those things and is a genuine diamond in the proverbial Duty Free rough.




  1. Hi there,

    £44.95 for the entry level standard bottling??? Are you serious Balblair?
    The pricing is crazy.


  2. Hi Kallaskander,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with your general sentiment – the price of entry level 10yo and 12yo bottlings seems to be increasing at a rather alarming rate, but Balbalir aren’t alone in charging this sort of money for their core expression. Such is the way of the whisky world these days…



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