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.