The Gathering Place at Balblair


Fashion. We can’t go anywhere without being judged on what we wear, drink, read or listen to. For the modern gentleman, it creeps into almost every aspect of our lives. Take the Don Draper hairstyle for example; not since the 1960s has it been cool to add a bathtub’s worth of Brylcreem to your bonce and culture a voluptuous side-parting. Fashion, it seems, is now making its way into the whisky industry. I’m not talking about Bowmore’s suit or Dalmore’s brogues – those are a bit too left field even for my flamboyantly-attired self. The hottest trend in whisky fashion right now is the distillery-specific online community. Just look at a couple which have featured recently on Edinburgh Whisky Blog; The Glenlivet Guardians and Clan Speyburn. Not to be outdone, Balblair have now launched an online community which gives members exclusive access to a plethora of whisky goodness.

Balblair have named theirs “The Gathering Place” which refers to the Clach Biorach. This is the 4000 year old stone which was used by the Picts as a calendar and meeting place and now sits at the gates of the distillery. Signing up is free and opens up a gateway to all things Balblairy – from info on new vintages and distillery news to exclusive blogs and expert tasting videos. Members can also add their own tasting notes on Balblair’s vintages and enter competitions to win all kinds of Balblair loveliness. Aesthetically, the website looks pretty darn sexy too (see below). Oh, and there’s the opportunity to purchase a members only bottling too.

But enough with the ins and outs of The Gathering Place’s nuts and bolts. I know I’ve got your attention now. I know what you’re thinking about. The members only bottling. Did I mention the first one is limited to around 150 bottles and is a single cask? The sound of your ears pricking up is almost audible. This is an American oak cask (number 1463) from 1990 which previously held Islay whisky and the result is a very unique Balblair. The image below is what it *might* look like – it hasn’t actually been bottled and packaged yet. So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on the soon-to-be-available liquid:

Balblair 1990
Single Cask (Cask No. 1463)
55.1% ABV
£90 available to members only

Nose: Hugely sweet and floral with faint lavender and jasmine. Some lychee. Big citrus notes, blood oranges and orange creams. Lemon zest and lime juice. Quite chocolatey too, coffee liqueurs and a faint whiff of smoke. Good complexity.

Palate: Extremely smooth. Sweet vanilla and millionaire’s shortbread are balanced by much richer fruity notes. There’s a slight nuttiness and the coffee comes back. A hint of tobacco leaves right at the back.

Finish: Long, fruity and very sweet. The citrus zing is calmed by a touch of smoke at the end.

Overall: A beauty. It’s not often you see a single cask Balblair and particularly one which has matured in a cask previously used on Islay. I left this to sit for a while and came back to it to see if it changed. It opens up beautifully given a bit of time, with exotic fruits and candied sweetness becoming more apparent. A superb summery dram.


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