Visiting Balblair Distillery Part II : Tasting session

After completing the Grand tour with distillery manager John MacDonald (see my last post about that), we were shown the way to the tasting room where we were to enjoy a few drams, again hosted by John. What can be a better ending to such a glorious tour in a lovely place like Balblair?

We entered the room to find the table set with five glasses, and after a few minutes, we started what we really came in for. taste whisky!


Glasses ready (photo: Lukasz Dynowiak)

There is no better way to start a tasting, than to sniff and taste the new make spirit, which just flowed from the wee stills.


Sniffing![Left to right : Tommy, Håkan,Billy,Me] (photo: Lukasz Dynowiak)

Balblair New Make Spirit, ~68% ABV,Not available anywhere

Nose: Fruity, Cirtusy, granny smith apples, pears,  with some leather undertones. John was explaining how the slow mashing and distillation helps to achieve this flavour profile.

Palate: Very sweet, fruity and the leather is also noticeable here.

Finish : Long Spicy and Malty.

I would not drink this on a daily basis, but this is fine stuff, when new make is concerned. It’s the essence of Balblair.

Balblair vintage 2000, 43% ABV,£32

I’ve tasted this one before in the Twitter tasting and this was fine stuff here are my notes:

Nose : What a nice exotic fruit salad we got over here, some vanilla and honey too. during the tasting i described the nose as ‘Vanilla Ice cream, with some honey drizzled all over, and nuts on top’ quite poetic, i agree but very true. This young nose is very very pleasant and appetizing. i couldn’t wait to try some on the palate.

Palate: Sweet, honey, floral notes combined with hints of coconut , ginger and white pepper. The fruits are there also, a lovely melange that’s hard to pinpoint. all in all very fruity and spiced.

Finish : Smooth, long and fruity. Nice.

Balblair 1989 vintage , 43% ABV,£42

alan 7998

Colour : Amber Gold(no colouring materials are added. i got a confirmation on that during the tasting form Lucas)

Nose : Still very fruity like the 2000, but heavier with more oak , raisin and  dried banana and pineapple. More complex, and wood. spices are there too.

Palate: Fruits (raisins, sultanas,banana, apple) and some cherries dipped in sherry, Spicy ginger and again that white peppery thing is noticeable.  The 2000 DNA is also in full motion here, but more complexity and heaviness due to the wood influence . Complex stuff. Lovely.

Finish : Long fruity, spicy and dry.

At this stage i posed a question regarding some cask strength bottling (or the lack of them), and John replied that they are aware of the growing demand of whisky drinkers for higher ABV cask strength expressions. He didn’t say much, but one could understand it’s coming. So , i really am waiting for that CS release from Balblair. Hope they release it sometime soon…

Balblair 1978 vintage , 46% ABV ,£137,  Non Chill Filteredbalblair-1978-whisky

This was made when i was a wee boy aged 3 years of age. Exciting to try it eh? so here we go

Nose: Spice with cloves,Some berries and Plums. Lovely stuff!

Palate: heavier with Coffee, dark chocolate, leather some plums again, and chocolate truffles. yummy stuff.

Finish: Long, with Tobacco and dried fruit.

We finished the tasting with a real treat : a peated new make. As i mentioned before, Balblair now produces also a peated variation of its spirit to be blended into some Thai whiskies (yes, yes). The barley is peated to 79 ppm (wow!). John told us he’s keeping a few casks to be aged on site, and he will be monitoring them closely for the next 10 years and see how they develop. Maybe we’ll see a peated single malt from Balblair in a few year’s time? who knows, it’s exciting anyways!

Peated New make spirit, 79ppm, ~68% ABV , Not available anywhere

Nose: Sweet notes up front, Wet tobacco and peat reek. I’m in love!

Palate: Spicy, fruity, smokey, with lots of apples and pears hanging there between the smoke and the peat.

Finish: Smoke, Leather and citrus.

Bottom line:

While i tried the 1989, 2000 expressions before, it was a real treat to try them with John, who spoke so passionately about them. The 1978 is a wonderful dram, I’ve tried for the first, and definitely not the last time. And those two new makes, very educating, and makes you think, hey – Balblair can do Peat. they really can. Exciting times.

Again, many many thanks to John for his time,and hospitality. He has the coolest Land Rover in the UK, by far. have a look!



2 thoughts on “Visiting Balblair Distillery Part II : Tasting session

  1. After asking about it every few days since the trip we finally got the 1978 in at work. I’ll hopefully have a bottle soon as the first entry in my ‘birth year vintage’ collection ready for my 40th birthday in a few years…

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