In July 2015, our whisky tasting group was invited by International Beverage Holdings to join a ‘Master Class’ with master distiller Stuart Harvey for a mini tour of their Inver House Scottish whiskies – Balblair, Old Puteney and Speyburn.
Who could resist?
We began our whisky sampling with a Balblair – a Highland distillery in Edderton, Ross-shire, Scotland which was founded in 1790 and boasts having one of the oldest archives in distilling – with a ledger entry from 1800.
One of the hallmark approaches with Balblair is to focus ONLY on vintages rather than producing consistency to a particular flavour profile for say a 10 year, 15 year, 18 year, etc.
Stuart shared that 1989 “was an amazing vintage!” where the 1st note was unmistakably banana yet was very delicate. Even with this vintage, now into their 2nd bottling, he noted there is some variation.
Which is half the fun of taking a vintage approach – where the distiller manager John MacDonald can wait until he believes it is ready for bottling – and then have additional releases as and when desired with variation entirely acceptable.
Lucky us – we had an opportunity to sample the 1st release of the Balblair 2003!
Here’s what I found with the Balblair 03 46% (bottled in 2015) that evening:
- Nose – Honey, toffee, green apple, citrus, fruity fragrant
- Taste – Warm creamy with a spicy vanilla from the bourbon, hint of sweet ginger, has a kind of brightness
- Finish – Soft sweet spice reminiscent of white peppercorn
Stuart shared they typically use 2nd fill bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace. He noted this Balblair 2003 was filled at 67% and matured at an even temperature between 12 – 14’c for 12 years. While whisky typically looses about 2% to the angels each year, this is offset by absorbing moisture from the atmosphere so was still 61% when it was ready to dilute and bottle 12 years later.
For many of us, the Balblair 03 was the whisky of the evening – we enjoyed its nuanced Highland balance of fragrances, fruit and creamy spice.
Here’s what the Balblair folks have to say about the Balbair 03:
The American oak, ex-bourbon barrels used in maturation impart toffee, butterscotch and vanilla notes.
- Appearance – Balblair 2003 is golden amber in appearance.
- Nose – On the nose there are the signature Balblair aromas: floral and fragrant punctuated with citrus fruits, apricots and honey.
- Palate – On the palate it is full bodied, with notes of oranges, lemon, honey and spice.
- Finish – The long lasting finish is sweet yet spicy; a superbly well-balanced dram.
Confession time… I revisited the Balblair 03 in September with the delightful Karen Walker, Marketing Director of Scottish Brands for International Beverage, and our newly formed Mumbai Whisky Ladies group. The notes from that evening are most amusing and deserve a separate post!
- Whisky Ladies with Karen Walker – Caorunn gin, Balblair 03, Old Pulteney 12 year, Speyburn 10 year, AnCnoc 12 + 22 year
- Master class with Stuart Harvey
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