29th October 2014
All we knew was we received three gorgeous samples (almost too good to open) The 2000 Single Cask, 1350 53% ABV, the 2000 Single Cask 0191 52.4% ABV, and yes you’ve guessed it, the 2000 Single Cask 1345. Intrigued? We certainly were. Unfortunately Stewart had other commitments, so it fell to me to take part, (it’s a hard life I know!).
So enough talking, let’s get tasting! First up:
2000 Single Cask 1350 – 53% ABV
This is a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel.
Straight off there are baked banana’s, the synthetic sweetness of squirty cream, it’s sweet with an almost sour milk note before the fruits march in. There are ripe juicy nectarines, and peaches, quickly followed with good quality rum & raisin ice cream. Orchard fruits, with pear and apples baked in caramel and sponge pudding.
Peach kernels and melted crayon and a sharp white grape note underpinning the sweetness. Milk chocolate sauce drizzled over hot, straight from the fryer batter and cashmere soft vanilla, with pistachios on waxed floors.
Next up is the sweet yet citrus and slight acidic touch of mandarin and then fresh grassy notes, perhaps a fleeting nod to the new make. There’s a yeasty, freshly baking bread note before we visit the tropics with paw-paw, papaya and a touch of floral with crystallised forget me nots.
Wow, this is hot, there’s a chilli tingle and plenty of ginger, almost like sucking on the root itself. This starts, calming down, and lashings of vanilla soothes the palate like a balm. There is dried coconut with homemade toffee, followed by fruit salad sweets, refreshers (so tingly) and peaches too.
The apples promised on the nose shine through still sweet though, more like toffee apples. Sugar soft pears are quick to follow, but there’s a bitter sunflower seed nuttiness toning down the fruit overload before cantaloupe melon arrives brining with it drying desiccated coconut and rich buttered toast.
Pink peppercorns and ground spice linger and this whisky is reminiscent of a good custard tart, rich, eggy and creamy and plenty of vanilla, followed by the buttery softness from the pastry and lots of cinnamon too.
2000 Single Cask 0191 – 52.4% ABV
Cask 0191 is also a 2nd fill ex-bourbon but previously filled with peated spirit which imparted some smoky character.
So, very different, this is dryer, the apples are there but gone is the gentle softness, and instead there are sharp green apples, with pencil shavings, unripe pineapple and mango. It’s like throwing white grape vines on to a bonfire. There are dry vermouth notes but given time it’s starting to sweeten. There are autumn leaves and damp logs, with just a touch of peach, sweet but it has been rolled in soot.
Fennel with the lovely aniseed notes are starting to come through with damp moss, and sage picked up with a little grassy, fresh basil. There’s a candy floss note bringing some much needed sweetness, this dram just evolves and evolves, there’s rich unsalted butter, and then winter fruits start to unravel with cranberries, orange peel and cloves leading the way. This is bonfires in the rain and sharp white grapes all the way.
This starts off drying for me, with earthy pumpernickel bread and the sweetness of grated carrot. The peat makes itself known with lots of fresh, damp earth. Imagine bread fallen in the hearth in the early hours of the morning. There is black pepper and sweet marzipan and a gentle fleshiness of fresh scallops, with the smoky, meatiness of good quality smoked bacon. It’s dry and gritty, like flint, with touches of sweet but smoky paprika and a touch of menthol.
If you were wondering where the fruits where, then wonder no more, there are ripe, juicy blackberries, sharp fresh raspberries, gooseberry and gentle juicy pears.
There is warm gentle hay and coconut cream with just a touch of lemongrass. The smoke lingers at the back of the throat, drying yet still sweet with sticky manuka honey and warming cloves right to the bitter end.
2000 Single Cask 1345 – 53.1%
First fill Oloroso sherry butt, which Balblair have chosen with a heavy, intense influence of the European oak from the cask.
Think conkers, baked in the oven (cheating I know), fresh shoe laces and plums, dates, damsons and warm honeyed figs, baked with a touch of vanilla cream. Heaps of baking spices, it must be like being in the kitchen with Mrs Claus! Spicy, chewy gingerbread with sweet blackcurrants and a touch of logan berry. There’s a gentle meatiness from a butchers leather apron, warm leather and dusty old books. It’s a slice of Christmas cake that been fed sherry every day for 6 months! Its treacle burnt and sticky with silky almonds and a layer of wine cellar dust and damp, rich oak.
Wow!! Baked figs, stewed plums in red wine, brambles found along the train tracks and, rich dark bitter chocolate wrapped around cinnamon bark. Plump mouth-watering raisins, with a burnt drying walnut edge. This whisky just never ends, it’s so tannic that oak is really making itself known, with rich fruits rolling ever onward, there is a slight savoury marmite edge to this, salty and meaty, before the fruits burst all over again. Even though I am already drinking, this continues to make my mouth water. There’s cedar wood from a good humidor, and warm, dry tobacco with a crisp salty bacon edge.
Its Christmas cake that’s been to the gym and there are wonderful winter mulled wine notes, bringing in cloves, cinnamon and warm oranges all with touches of hoisin sauce.
So what else did we learn half way through the tasting? These beauties are NOT for sale, anywhere, and there are no plans to release them, they are special cask samples only, which it terrible news because they are all amazing!
It was so hard for everyone on the tasting to pick a favourite, if you pushed me, I think I’d go for the sherry monster, which is so different to Balblair for me. That said the other two casks were superb also.
For me this was further proof that Balblair continue getting it right! They were all perfect. So balanced. It would be cruel of me to tell you to try these, when I know that you can’t, but if, by some minor miracle you get the chance, grab it with both hands!
It was an amazing tasting with great people, the only thing that could have made it any better, was if I was lucky enough to be with the guys tasting from the distillery! #justsaying @Balblair.
A big thanks to both Balblair and Alembic Comms for allowing me to take part in such a special tasting, these whiskies were more than amazing and just showcases the top form of Balblair, if there is such a thing as a bad release from Balblair, I’ve certainly never tried it and to be honest I don’t think I would ever find one.