Bottle polishing: Old & new

All good things come to an end, sometimes all at once.


Balblair 1997/2007 [1st release] Ob. 43% WB82.33[53] WF80 WM81[13]

  • N: Charming bourbon-sweetness with soft resins. The big difference between this now legendary Balblair vintage [the first from Inverhouse], and those that have followed, is a softer & deeper cask maturation. On the nose, you may pick up pear drops, pineapple cubes and sweet>>bitter<chalky lemon with bourbon-ey icing sugar, but its the softness from the oaky bourbon sugars that impresses most. Soft resins are equal to the yeastiness. Most charming natural style i can think of without any big ‘malty’ notes present – though we can all agree its porridgy at its heart. Its my favourite ’natural’ style modern whisky.
  • T: From the nose, it delivers as you may expect. Its rather palate quenching too, the soft, sweet oaky-porridgy lemon & bourbon sugars continue the theme with some spice that subsides somewhat over time. The note of ‘ginger & sultanas’ from Sergei is spot on.

Balblair 97 box.jpg

  • F: Somewhat dry with a little more chalky porridge and bourbon sweetness to the end yet incredibly, vanilla plays only a small part. Grassy bitters at the death which i don’t recall from other bottles as being so decisive.
  • C: Not so convinced by this bottle/batch. As you’ll see from my comments regarding the 1983 Balblair 1st release:blood 2 [below], aside from the batch variations, ive experienced bottle discrepancies too – and this appears to be no different. Given these bottles are now exclusively auction purchases, the storage conditions of their temporary custodians are certainly worthy of speculation – there was even a hint of OBE here, fancy that already! However, as time went on and the bottle opened out, most of the edgy astringency left, and mainly only the [true] mellowness remained. What a good year for Balblair-Inverhouse. Perfect whisky of this style.

Scores 86 points


Glenmorangie Nectar D’or 12yo [2013] Second Edition Ob. 46% WB85[145] [WF]86 WM85[2]

I was rather unimpressed with this on opening but pleasingly with only a few days in, the distillery character begun to show through. My hunch is this bottle will turn out to be decent enough but i bet after all is said & done [over the next few months], the ‘Original’ 10yo will remain ‘the gold’.

Nectar dor.jpg

  • N: This follows on so neatly from the Balblair 1997. Goes along similar bourbon-sweet lines yet with riper/sweeter fruits and a nice level of wood & yeastiness. Just a tad ‘easier’, honeyed/malty, the cereal/porridge base a little more rounded-off & actually far fluffier [Bavenie doublewood-esque] – that sweet Sauternes finish making quite the difference and hey, thats the Glenmorangie signature also. The Sauternes finish in fact really gives the bourbon-earthy-dunnage>pongy-putty character a rather pleasing twist. Other notes of white butter, some buttery floral notes [still don’t know my flora n fauna], cake mix, oat milk, poppadoms, dry flannel… E150a? Babycham? Moving on.
  • T: An arrival of fruity/molasses/Sauternes with some fizz, then to a relaxed/meandering, oaky-sweet, honeyed>barley development. E150a? – i say yes. Water management gives varying results. More Sauternes>sherry [scorched] molasses on the turn.
  • F: Honeyed with a little dry-sour oak. dried marmalade, strawberry jam, strong hints of Drambuie and very neat liquorice candy=<wood at the death. Concludes fairly pronto.
  • C: Admittedly I had initially resigned this bottle to the blending cupboard, finding it was hugely improved with a glug of Aberlour A’bunadh. A drop of Laphroagh completed the blend. However as the months past, on further inspection I found this D’or to be excellent in its own right. In fact i begun to tire of the A’bunadh [#47], and found it a more suitable blending partner – in the form of a dull-savoury Talisker 18yo – sacrilege i know! [Whats happened to Talisker lately – anyone else noticed the downward dog?]. So what about my first impressions eh? The ‘Original’ 10yo does indeed remain ‘the gold’ but this up there, scoring only a mark less than that Balblair ’97. It’s a bit of an ‘odd-ball’ too, which i like. I do however recommend blending a little A’bunadh & a drop of smoke if you have some Nectar to spare.

Scores 85 points


North of Scotland 1971/2015 43yo Gordon & Company Pearls of Scotland 43.6% WB87.73[13]

North of Scotland grain – as rare as hens teeth? Not just yet, but soon!

  • N: Theres some sharpness on opening that dissipates after a few days. Its replaced by a sweet fattiness and is abound with bourbon complexities. Creamy emulsion, Airfix paint, a dab of UHU, dried fruits, fruit sweets, bourbon vanilla & lime, woody dry ice-cream, a hint of tutti-fruity, fructose caramel, peach melba & strawberry yoghurt~milkshake, savoury-gluey-fruity-cream [im amalgamating flavours now], dried apricots, dried coconut shavings, maple syrup, nail varnish, rum with banana syrup, caramel, set honey, an old small pile of dry sawdust, dry woody dunnage fungal,… you get the picture.  Whatever comes next, the nose is sensational. Wonderful bourbon cask complexity.

NoS 1971 close

  • T: This bottle really needs lots of opening out. Theres a sharpness on the palate like on the nose but again that softens convincingly after the first few days. Arrives bitter-sweet followed by a thinnish soft-sweet-sharpness. The wood tannin is heavy but get the water level just right and it oozes more with fruity strawberry milkshake=candy, single cream, slight golden syrup=honey, malt-sugars, malt chocolate [Ovaltine], and more memorable woody-fructose-fattiness. Theres occasionally a slight tangy/funky metallic=plastic distillate note, often found in young [agricole] rum distillate – neither necessarily a good nor a bad thing, just the nature of things.
  • F: The body increasingly thins and dries before a final flurry of woody, thick vanilla ice-cream, crystalised banana candy with slightly bitter-metallic, sour-ish cream and a flat-sharp woody freshness. The woody vanilla holds in there for another sustaining second wave. Properly dry now with more oaky-dry, vanilla-dunnage-fungal. As long a finish as one could expect from such an old grain.
  • C: As this bottle was going down [about half way], it hit a sweet=spot when everything was ‘cooking’. Either side of that it showed its age somewhat, or maybe I’m showing my age too! Though certainly not faultless, I enjoyed every moment of this bottle. Boy that nose, just let it breath – but not too much as it doesnt weather the elements too well, mainly on the palate.

Scores 88 points


Balblair 1983/2014 1st release Ob. 46% WB87.50[6] [WB]89.11[68] WF90

  • N: Never have I been so struck by such a intoxicatingly deliciously savoury=sweet, foosty-dry dunnage smell than at the Balblair distillery in Edderton, and i detect the same readily in this glass. Nosings of dunnage flowers [whatever they are], abundantly scented bouquets, some chocolate orange,… but back to that scent. Its more on sweet, floral gardens,….what do they call them? – sensory gardens!
  • T: A bit winey to start with but soon a waxy, oily-ish barley note resides, developing on sweet chocolate liqueur, more fragrant flowers & fruits and pink wafer bisquits with wood tannins and white pepper. Dryish overall save for a waxy-dry mouthfeel & chewy developing into the finish – so theres a salivating quality despite the dryness.

Balblair 83

  • F: Moorish bourbon cask sugars with a finish as if id just finished a bowl of rolled oats soaked in coconut yoghurt, vanilla cream and cashew nut=oat milk. Lots of wood, though from decent refills in the main [i imagine]. Slight off-notes at the death [winey/oily crisps] but not before more oozing, barley chew. Clean, creamy bourbon finish – a tad mono-dimensional [a la, more recent Balblair releases], but it has given plenty.
  • C: Aside from the confusing situation of the existence of two ‘1st releases’ of the 1983 vintage and the batch variations between them (similar story with the 1997s im afraid), im also finding bottle variations within the same batches. Id not been totally convinced by this vintage in the past until i experienced the 2nd 1st release [2014] at the distillery itself. Wanting to dismiss any emotional/environmental/locational bias, this ‘at home’ bottle didnt quite match the one ‘on location’, but its not far off.

[Balblair 1983] FINAL THOUGHTS

  • N: Let’s see what the final 10cl brings. Charming & divine, honeyed bourbon nose with nutty pecan pastries. Let it settle [still!], and its abound with fruits, tropical fruits, fragrant fruits – with plenty of jasmine & sweet-pea. The wood tannins have softened the spirit wonderfully without dominating.
  • T: Adding water affects the mouthfeel by making it softer, even more divine.
  • F: Its still quite spirity to the last drop, concluding with chocolate liqueur and vanilla cream.
  • C: Think ive said it all, until the next sip hehe. A wonderful vintage indeed.

Scores 89 points


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