An evening with Stuart Harvey – Balblair 99, 00, 05 + Speyburn 15

It was an evening of sheer enjoyment, no serious masterclass, just good company, good whisky and an exceedingly good evening. It was in a most convivial South Mumbai home with the amusing and knowledgeable Stuart Harvey, Master  Blender for IBHL gracing the occasion…

Photo: Courtesy Niko Berg

And what did we have the good fortune of enjoying? Some mighty fine whiskies – with no dissecting the drams in depth, only a few fleeting impressions remained…

Balblair 05 (2015) 46% 1st Release

  • Light, fresh, green apples, had a classic oak matured quality, honey, citrus sweet
  • A cheerful, happy whisky

Balblair 00 (2014) 46%

  • For many this was the most delicious! Baked apple pie, yum!
  • Sweet and creamy, fruity with chocolate, balanced and nuanced
  • In short, an exceedingly tasty dram

Balblair 99 (2014) 46% 1st Release

  • Could clearly tell there was a marriage of ex sherry with ex bourbon – all the sherry sweetness and beautiful vanilla honey bourbon, light fruits, just enough spice to give it a little pizzazz, rich toffee, overall a class act
  • Lovely long finish – just what one wants in a beautiful whisky!

The Speyburn 15 year

  • A complete change in pace! And in its new packaging too…
  • Had all the usual Speyburn characteristics – shifted to bolder, direct dram… no pretence it is what it is…
  • Everything one enjoys in the 10 years, just enhanced even more

Special shout out to Kavir and Vidhu with our host for putting together such a super fab evening.

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Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies and Karen Walker explore Balblair 03 46%

Next up with Karen Walker, Global Marketing Head for Scottish Brands of InterBeverage Group was the delightful Balblair 03.

Karen set the tone by taking us on a trip to the early days of the whisky industry, proudly sharing Balblair has been distilling legally since 1790… though no doubt drunk before the first official ledger entries!

Conversation turned to comments about the whiskies ‘thick legs’… to which Karen shared it is all about the viscosity. To which immediately there was the quip “Wouldn’t say that word after four of these!”

Balblair 03 (InterBev)

Balblair 03 (InterBev)

Balblair 03 aka 12 year 46%

Here’s what the whisky said to our whisky women:

  • Nose – There is a freshness, apples, sweet, heady, fruity. After airing a few vanilla notes emerge
  • Taste – Caramel apples, sticky apricot, a bit spiced, toasty, good mouth-feel, as it opens a little earthy element peaks out, smooth and easy.
  • Finish – Spicy finish, star anise, very smooth going down and curls with light smoke

Karen shared how the pale natural colour of Balblair has caused a marketing quandary. A certain country in Europe and well known retailer that shall remain nameless, called to say there was something ‘defective’ or ‘off’ about the entire Balblair shipment. Why? It wasn’t the ‘right’ colour. And consumers would not buy it. Hmm…

The Balblair was sampled after the refreshing Caorunn Gin and before:

What others say about Balblair 03:

  • Whisky Gospel – with a tour of the distillery too
  • Miss Whisky – on trying the 03, 90 and 69 with the distillery manager John MacDonald

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Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies meet Karen Walker of Inver House

Now… I could tell you serious stories of sniffing, sipping, swishing, swilling, and eventually swallowing.

However this is the tale of how a bunch of women got together one evening and managed to still stand after five (or was it six?) fabulous beverages.

Some of Whisky Ladies of Mumbai

Karen with some of Whisky Ladies of Mumbai

Whisky Ladies go pro!

Yes… it was the night we graduated to power point presentations with insights from a real live whisky professional! Who just so happens to be the absolutely delightful, entertaining and highly knowledgeable Karen Walker, Global Marketing Head for Scottish Brands of InterBeverage Group.

Here is what we sampled with Karen with full posts about the Whisky Ladies experiences:

Related posts sampling Inver House offerings with Master Distiller Stuart Harvey from earlier in 2015:

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Balblair 03 46% 1st bottling

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 EddertonRoss-shireScotland 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!

Balblair 03 (InterBev)

Balblair 03 (InterBev)

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!

Related posts:

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