On location: Dornoch, again! [Part 2]

Im back at the bar for Balblair. The 1969 31yo Highland Selection 45% isnt available any more [boo], but they have a ‘First Cask’ from the 70s and two more. Ive decided to have a pair as im pacing myself, so i’ll have to pass on one.


Balblair 1975/1998 22yo First Cask #7283 46% WB89[1]

C: Sniffing from the bottle – smells a bit metallic with a sweet blended quality. Maybe against my better judgement I decided to pass on this one. What i couldn’t have foreseen is that a month later i would try cask #7285 WB, so i dont feel i missed out too massively.


Balblair 1975/1997 21yo SV cask #7275 [btl #251/655] 56.6% WB82.80[7] WM83[5]

Balblair SV.jpg

  • N: Its not the first time a Balblair has smelt like a Lowlands – Bladnoch to be precise. Lets get into that sweet farmy lemon, soft grassy-sweet sponge, apple blossom [Malt Martin], and a soft/gentle ripe-veg/fruit pong hinting at a farmy/[bacon] smokiness.
  • T: Initially an edgy>coppery, citric>salty-cereal-malt arrival with a tiny farm note before hitting the ‘innocuous zone’, a zone that that later translates as malty-waxy chocolate. Even then, theres still a vagueness about its ‘middle’. Later on the arrival is more on salty-sweet stuff that melts in the mouth, water assisted. With small sips and plenty of water in the mouth I extracted quite some industrial/farmy complex with sweet liquorice & salted caramel. Blu-tac>wax capacitors into the finish.
  • F: Initially a fabric-bourbon finish [make of that what you will], with a subtle complexity lurking – concluding with fairly quiet bourbon=capacitor murmurings. As time passes, chocolate-y salted caramel from the palate lingers.
  • C: Not one of the 70’s greats but i think the distillery nailed those – the independents often producing non-Balblair-like Balblair. A decent lowland-style Highland malt with controlled sips earning it more marks.

Scores 86 points


Balblair 1980/1990 9yo SMWS 70.2 61.3% WB88[1]

Balblair SMWS.jpg

  • N: An unadulterated young CS Balblair from the very early 80’s, what a treat! Another intense oily number [much down to the abv], with a sweet dunnage-funk emerging and vanilla showing with time. So fresh it could have been bottled yesterday, being really similar to current ‘distillery-only’, youngish NAS [8-10yo] bottlings.
  • T: Big hit [abv again], but how the abv preserves! As Ras Mazunga noted: abv=>OBE – some prime examples to be found with many James MacArthur bottlings from the same period. Its a straight oily one, not doing too much but throbbing/zinging all the way through.
  • F: Cereal/plasticine moving to vanilla dunnage. Some vibrant green tannic oak resides with a bitter-clay-oak edge, slightly salty – still throbbing to the last.
  • C: Rather full-on even for a Mannochmore fan – never lets up.

Scores 85 points


Dufftown 1978 34yo Scotia Royale [102/172 bts] 55.8% WB89[3] WF55

Serge: ‘I think it’s Glen Catrine (Loch Lomond) behind this newish independent bottle’. Bottled for the Japanese market.

dufftown 1978.jpg

  • N: An odd one but not unlikeable, far from it – and one that reads well: Rich, floral deep-fusty dunnage vibe. Alongside, theres a sweet jammy [sponge] pong, fruity mature-cream, fusty nuts [chestnuts>walnuts=Brazils], a touch of painters brush,…
  • T:  A strong one initially with an agreeable chew before,…things turn ‘funny’,… . There are off-sweet notes, some white-spirit/methylated cooking spirit, Brasso,.. Nitromors – if youve ever used this stuff, youll feel like youve ingested it just from the fumes alone. Some sips go down a briney/washing-up liquid plughole whilst others head towards a briney/putty-malt direction with a touch of oily=sooty>turpentine phenols. Dont add too much water, though heck it needs it.
  • F: Dry chewing gum, off-caramel, clotted cream on the turn, a touch of curdled Baileys, some pond-water pong,… Whilst the finish doesnt read as well as the nose, things are looking up with attempts to return to its malty core, albeit with a briney/washing-up mouthfeel and a sooty-barley note at the death.
  • C: A likeable low achiever.

Scores 75 points


Royal Brackla 1969/[1983] 14yo GM Brown label 40% [75cl] WB87[5] WF85 WM90[1]

Royal Brackla.jpg

  • N: Lets mention the GM usual suspects first: ginger cake<vanilla>caramel – there, done! Pleasingly theres so much else to focus on, like heathery-woody-orchid & candy sweet crumble- – and thats just for starters. Popadoms, cumin, garam masala, amchoor powder~actual mangos, lychee, boozy melon,…. ooh how weve gone from puddings, through the spices, fruits & crumbles, and then onto [fruit] salads – all rather boozy, fuzzy [magical], and woody.
  • T: Soft [abv]-sharp & woody for sure, fruit-compacted putty-plasticine and some glycerine,… into [waxy] capacitors – second time tonight!
  • F: err,.. its all a bit murky after this. Woody vanilla at the death and a slight burnt oiliness.
  • C: What a flop at the last hurdle, but it had a great start.

Scores an oh-so-predictable GM-vintage score of 80.


Im pondering ‘what next’, when Phil passes me this sheet and a dram – on the house! Merci.

Signatory supreme list


Signatory Supreme blended malt [Crystal decanter] [btl #124/500] 43% WB0

From WB: ‘A decanter, (one of 500 produced), holding a special vatting of 104 different aged single malts from the1960s and early 1970s – the oldest being a 1961 Miltonduff. Bottled by Signatory in 1997. In presentation box with certificate and stopper’.


  • N: Given its composition im finding the nose challenging, and to complicate matters its a totally different beast 30 mins later, but all the time working a treat. It would benefit me not to overcomplicate this more than it already is on paper. Of course, its a compacted/complex single malt blend, with deep fungal notes and putty=aromatic spices. Ill leave it there.
  • T: My palate accepts the first deep fungal wave as the lights in the Dornoch Castle Whisky bar herald the end of the working week and the beginning of the weekend – ive been here all day, and with no signs of stopping. Theres a band on later, wonder if ill make that?
  • F: Doesnt hang around, imagine all of those malts finishing short. Did they all cancel each other or is that the nature of most of the 104 [well aged] vintage drams?
  • C: Thankyou Phil, a real treat. The highlight is the arrival as the palate receives and the mind perceives all that whisky history & malt calibre in one hit. Theres a lot of cancelling out though, and as is often the way with blends/blended malts, despite all the provenance they are more often than not intended & blended to be knocked back. Slainte!

Not scored, not intentionally – i simply got distracted and forgot. [Mid-high 70’s possibly].


Whilst we are on blends

Inver Regal Scotch ‘Gay Lussac’ JH Wham & Son for Brisbane Cellars 43 degrees


  1. As i learned from my visit to Brora in the morning blog: Inver is derived from the Gaelic ‘inbhir’ meaning river mouth.
  2. A WB search for ‘Gay Lussac’ brings up Glenfiddich. I couldn’t find any other info.
  3. On the label it states: ‘Non commercial value’ – testing purposes only’. Well, lets test it then!
  • N: Old skool rounded grain-led blend with a percentage of compliant malt content. Stewed ginger much later, soft pastry,.. Its really tasty once left to sit for an hour.
  • T: Grain first, some soft bark and some OBE [but not too bad]. Then it settles/flops.
  • F: Wispy, easy, light, soft-creamy, finishing with soft>sweet milk of magnesia.
  • C: An easy one at the end of an amazing day, a day  that begun with seeing those Brora stills in situ.

Scores 77, a good 77 mind – the best 77 ever awarded!


Its time for tea [Earl Grey]. I sip from china, pondering what the evening has in store whilst watching the de-corking master at work.



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