Pleasingly, Inver House [WB] managed to secure a stall at the Edinburgh Whisky Fringe 2018, and brought along whisky from three of the five houses in their portfolio.
- N: Sweet & fruity lemon candy/sponge cake with some un-baked flour in the middle.
- T: More flour again and with more fruits shooting through in the guise of more candy & fermented sour citrus fruits. Unfortunately, A slightly uncomfortable experience overall.
- F: etc,..
- C: I’m not wild about it.
Scores 78 points
- N: Much like the 10yo but with more roundness, less candy fruits and more malty & citrus depth. The nose is rather fine.
- T: This is far better than the 10yo, having shaken off those fermented & floury issues. Stays malty with varied fruity action and a far better body by comparison.
- F: It’s still a bit ‘funny’ [almost butyric & resinous], but there are improvements over the 10yo in all departments.
- C: Scores a few marks more than its younger sibling, much of that down the nose alone.
Scores 81 points
Moving on now to an old favourite of mine.
Balblair 2000/2017 Ob. 2nd release 46% WB85.68
Balblair certainly know how to confuse both customers & retailers, and it’s been an unnecessary bone of contention for years. For example:
There have been other 2000 vintages back in the day. First up was a 2000 vintage 1st release bottled in 2010 [WB], and another 1st release [WB] and a 2nd release [WB] both bottled in 2011 – as well as a number of single cask bottlings. This latest 2000 vintage however, replaces the previous 1999 vintage and its position in the duty-free market. With regards to the ongoing confusion over vintage releases, I got the low-down from one of Balblair’s global ambassadors. As I understand it:
- ‘2nd release’ is so called when the master blender [Stuart Harvey], deems the taste profile for a particular vintage batch to have changed significantly from the first release.
- A vintage batch may have been further aged and/or finished from the initial release, though not necessarily with enough of a taste profile difference to deem it worthy of 2nd release status. For instance, the 1983 1st release bottled in 2013 did have a differing profile to the 1983 1st release bottled in 2014, though both are deemed 1st releases and labelled accordingly.
- Subsequent releases do now carry a bottling year to differentiate them from previous 1st or 2nd releases – hallelujah! From memory I believe only vintages 1989, 1991 and 1999 got as far as a 3rd release.
- The inclusion of a bottling year now clears up confusion from the past, though I still think it would be simpler to additionally label subsequent releases sequentially – 3rd, 4th, 5th release etc., regardless of the perceived taste profile. This logical system has done Aberlour A’bunadh or Laphroaig’s CS batch series no harm whatsoever.
- Finally, the bottling date isn’t always specified by retailers and in previous years the bottling date was printed on the back [or not at all], meaning retail internet pictures don’t necessarily reveal all! So when purchasing Balblair vintages, make sure you ascertain the bottling year as well as the vintage date and the release number. Nuff said!
- N: Like a floral-scented shower room in the summertime, fresh/soft and underpinned with sweet honeyed toast.
- T: Remembering that this is a 17yo [far older than the original 2000/2011 vintage WB], and with a varied mix of casks, the result is pleasing. It’s a drinker alright.
- F: Sweet to fresh, all very relaxed.
- C: No grumbles here.
Scores 84 points
Balblair 1991/2018 27yo Ob. 3rd release 46% WB88.21
C: This is where we want Balblair to be – well aged. The spirit almost always appears resilient yet complaint in the long run. Here we’ve lots of small movements occurring throughout a subtle yet colourful journey. With only a little congestion mid-palate, the malty barley spirit rings true throughout. The [bourbon/sherry] cask mix/ratio is superb. Lovely stuff. £124 [Aug ’18].
Scores 88 points
An Cnoc 2005/2018 13yo Ob. for RMW Peated [222 bts] 58.1% WB86.50
I’ve only tried one vintage An Cnoc to date and that was a fabulous 1975/2014 Ob [WB], but I’m not expecting anything like that here. Coming in at 16.7ppm, the label states that the whisky is from a peated cask. So does that mean the spirit wasn’t peated prior to filling?
- C: This isn’t my style of malt at all [sherry-sweet peat], though it is well executed. An Cnoc have brought out a few peated expressions of late [Flaughter & Rascan for example], and this appears very similar in character. Packaging-wise, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Bruichladdich’s Octomore series, many of which were 16.7ppmx10. It’s pleasing to see vintages on whisky, but for £100!?
Scores 80 points