Just before Christmas, both Joel and I had an interesting trip up to the Highlands to visit the Balblair Distillery. A stones throw away from the Glenmorangie distillery Balblair have been hard at work developing their series of vintage bottlings including the majestic 1978, 1989 and recently the 2000.
But this trip also marked the opening of the distillery's very first 'visitors centre' - tastefully developing some of the older warehouse space into a precise time line charting the distillery's history, as well as providing Balblair with the first onsite bottling - a distillery-only single cask, which visitors can bottle themselves using a rather handsome (if slightly temperamental) new filling system.
Balblair is undoubtedly one of the prettier distilleries, noted for its simple rustic charm, as opposed to throwing the kitchen sink at re-designing and repainting everything in sight, which so often happens when a new visitors centre is built. One aspect that really caught our attention was the distillery's close proximity to a rail line (which would have been one of the primary transport sources for distributing their whisky at some point in the past). Open one of the doors to the back of the still house and you can pretty much step out onto the line, which gave us an idea for a game of 'whisky chicken', until we realised that the line is actually still in operation, so we got scared and quickly took this picture... Whisky On The Tracks....
So to the whiskies themselves. The 2000 vintage gets us off to a cracking start- light and zesty, with a sugary cereal/sponge cake note, the palate gave some flavoursome tinned fruit notes and a hint of bourbon character. The 1989 followed suit accordingly in the complexity department, with some lovely cherry, vanilla, honey and banana notes, melding into richer sponge cake notes (spot he recurring theme here)
Our highlight was the distillery-only single cask. If you're planning a Highland adventure, don't just head straight for Tain - you'll miss out on getting a dram of this little beauty.
Balblair - Distillery Only bottling - Cask 2990 - distilled 1992 - 60.9%
Nose: Guess what... sponge cake hits the nose first with an almighty splat! this is deftly followed by some chopped almonds, marzipan, a slight waxiness, lemon Bon Bons and tonic water. It is refreshing, yet rich in equal measure. It needs a dash of water to help it reveal its inner most secrets though.
Palate: Sweet malty cereal, vanilla, some light cinnamon /spice notes and a mouth coating, creamy chocolate/Horlicks note. Given time, some vaguely tropical fruit notes develop (mango and passion fruit) but they are restrained and just sit perfectly in the background.
Finish: The fruity notes (green apple and those aforementioned tropical notes) linger on the palate, alongside the malt notes.
Overall: Highly drinkable stuff, with a little bit of real distillery character to it. This bottling is well worth looking at, should you be paying a hugely worthwhile visit to Balblair.