Not surprisingly perhaps, I see a likeness [especially in age-relative expressions] between two Highland distilleries that are situated just a few miles apart from each other. We start with two takes of an affordable dependable classic.
A strong contender for ideal whisky for beginners, like so many of us, Glenmorangie was one of my first-contact malts. Amazingly, this is my first ‘proper’ GlenMo 10 review.
- C: It’s been a few years since I had the GlenMo 10, but my appetite for it hasn’t wavered, and I’m a sucker for these gentile malt styles [Tomintoul, Glencadam, Balblair,…]. I absolutely caned this bottle, not even filing it. Staying consistent year on year, it noses as a lovely fluffy honeyed malt with pear drops and pineapples, a youthful style that was typical of new distilleries before STR became so prevalent, a style GlenMo has nurtured and nailed. Faultless in its class, a world without Glenmorangie 10 is a loss indeed.
Provisionally scores around 85
At £26 [one of the best BFYB going right now, discuss], I went and bought another as a daily drinker.
Glenmorangie 10yo  Ob. The Original 40%
- N: No need to dig too far when we know its a fairly shallow affair. Enjoy top notes then of flour-covered bread-flour-battered apple & pear [drop] fruits with the emphasis on the flour. From this fluffy floured fruitiness with a touch of vanilla custard, I frequently pick up shades of Mackmyra. Was GlenMo or Balblair perhaps an influence for this Swedish distillery, or is the profile [particularly of the Bruks] just a coincidence? On cue, Angela D’Orazio tells us [at TBWC’s World Whisky Summit], that Mackmyra decided not to follow the Scottish model from the beginning.
- T: A lightly-floured waxy < chalky white wine-like [Cox] apple skin-tannic cider/calvados chew, though it doesn’t hang around.
- F: A soft-fresh sharpness cuts into the travel, finishing on chalky green barley. What a touch of underlying peat-malt wouldn’t add to this, my word! How about a [mild] peat week just occasionally LVMH? [#missingatrick]. Whilst we wait, blend in some soft peated whisky for yourself [Springbank for example which I had to hand], for the [somewhat] desired result.
- C: As vital for whisky enthusiasts as neon socks and Puma bags were for many kids in the 1980s, the Original 10yo is an incredibly competent, very safe go-to whisky, though, despite its solid presence, I’ve always a feeling that there should/could be more. Whilst Glenmorangie’s excellent Quarter Century bottling remains the best GlenMo I’ve had, I’ve not yet had an absolute belter. As an entry-level single malt, however, the 10yo is an ideal place to start and/or accompany one’s whisky journey.
Scores 84 points
To the second highland distillery. Did you guess Balblair? Of course you did.
Not sure I’ve reviewed the 2009-bottled 1st release, though I’ve very possible drunk more 1997 vintage Balblair than any other whisky. It kicked off my malt madness big time when I bought a bottle in duty-free in the same year, a choice I made primarily because of the name and packaging.
- N: It’s a vintage so we know there can’t be older stuff in here. Apples and pears says ‘young’ right, except there’s some reference to an older dunnage-y layer though its flour and grist notes that give much of the textural depth. Indeed, those soft ripe fruits [throw in sharp limes and soft bananas] are covered in a light floury cake dough – a la GlenMo. What’s not to like? Nothing. A reference to it? Early-days Mackmyra Bruks though I haven’t tried it in recent years. Then came along a Cadenhead’s Small Batch 11yo [WLP88] to reinforce the likeness between Balblair [GlenMo] and Mackmyra. Of this official 1997 Balblair, there’s something so relaxed yet pristine at its heart with fruit oils personified. As well as being a distillery tour in a glass, under those fruits and oils, tomato soy wasabi umami undertones,…. Enough already!
- T: This will appease those who find Balblair’s earlier/older vintages to be a little woody. There’s a perfect marriage of spirit and oak here, so much so, it’s hard to spot the join. Comes in [neat] and sits there, landing somewhat in a playful clumsy heap. Add water for more breadth but it’s the softness that I like, like a curled up soft fluffy ball of floury crushed fruits. Play with water for varying textural layers. On the turn, the barley flour-like banana-softness turns more towards sour sharp fruit skin tannins.
- F: More of those floury sour yet ripe fruits with a little ground white pepper to compliment the savoury-sour doughy apple skin/calvados qualities. Cut apple at the tail with [synthetic] dry peach, dried banana, candy banana, hints of dried pineapple and just a touch of dry fruity congealed oiliness.
- C: I could chug this back all night. Love the stuff. Compare this to Balblair’s current 12yo [WLP79], a different world. Stunning maturity at 11-12 years.
Scores 86 points
Last one for today. Another Balblair, polished.
- N: Despite the age difference, the profile similarity to the GlenMo 10 remains, alongside that previously mentioned Cadenhead’s Mackmyra bottling. Succinctly put, waxy=oaky and a ripe-yet-firm fruitiness, covers this moreish profile.
- T: I often talk/reference in vagueness, notes of ‘flora n fauna’. but today I’m specifying a particular leggy red-lunged weed with small pinky/purple flowers that I pull up from my garden all the time. Anyone know what it’s called [see pic]?
- F: I covered this vintage in more detail last summer [WLP289], so I don’t feel too bothered that I only added that unknown weed on the palate and now only ‘oaky beeswax’ at the tail. I meant to add more descriptors but this bottle got finished along with Glenmorangie 10 in a swift impromptu session.
- C: Whilst the oak quality is desirable in itself, significant ageing over the 1997 vintage brings a deeper fruitiness [though I’d take the 1997 over the 1991 on a subjective level]. Happy days.
Scores 88 points