‘Superb 'edgy' stuff and never a dull moment’
N: It's a sherry bomb which was guaranteed just by looking alone. Its bitter/sweet by nature - the oak playing an enormous part in creating an oaky, cherry and prune sensation. Ginger cake, sultanas and carrot cake are here too - all to be expected along with undefined mushrooms, veg stock cubes, sweet [pizza base] tomato sauce, cherry and blueberry muffins, moss, dew-soaked grass, picked/sundried dandelions, tamarind/sugary oyster sauce, scones, yeasty-fluffy breads, sweet~honeyed carrots turning to butternut squash, a gentle screwdriver [cocktail], strawberry cough sweets, [black] treacle, molasses flapjack - but its the maltiness that's winning me over and turning this sherry bomb into something more spectacular. I find myself looking for more bottles online at this moment.
T: Uber-sherry rich expectation met [with a cask strength first fill cask], this is going to need water. This isn’t a sweet sherry bomb however, it's a green savoury affair. Its sour=bitter with or without but with water it provides a sweeter edge with toffee showing into the finish. After a few days, the bitterness is softening, not much but enough. The is now all about the oak, zingy, bitter oak with the sherry sweetness a passing thought. There's a tar note initially on arrival - an oil-slick affair turning fresh with fennel and aniseed, sweetening slightly before turning to a fresh finish.
F: Green sherry wood - new stick wood before aniseed/liquorice wood shines [aniseed lingering] and becoming more vibrant. Plenty of oomph until the last - and with water the grain shines through more at the end, with raspberry coulis and celeriac appearing. There's lots of lip-smacking to be done here not least of all because of my need to extract sweetness from the bitter/sour - a sublime pastime. I have a particular passing note of lambs liver just before the finish but its not a prominent feature by any means.
C: The distillery is somewhat irrelevant here, it and the grain itself playing second fiddle to the cask. Its all about the cask and its a fresh one, a challenge, and a joyous one. Its the most polite sherry bomb i know of, and that at least is very Balblair.
Last few drams of the bottle
N: Damp, fungal oak combined with soft toffee and fudge. Malty dunnage nose with hessian sacks, helter-skelter mats and old (Cub Scout) canvas tents - and despite all that oaky sour freshness there's pineapple cubes, raspberry & strawberry jam sponge cake with powdered custard, fruity custard, boiled sweets, toffee brûlée and strawberry angel delight. Intoxicating stuff at intoxicating levels, Lots to discover within its always dusty, fruity interior.
T: Strong, active stuff with an arrival that you won't forget - pipettes at the ready because this one is 'edgy'. Smoky Tarka Dahl, damson jam, ham and oak & vegetal (fennel) moves towards a fresh=maltiness with mushroom soup, spices and lots of wood. Sherry sweetness is always kept on its toes with the fresh bitterness.
F: Grain & oak, sour=sweet with a fungal finish - it may not sound desirable but it is. Mineral/vegetal/malty, sour-savoury dry finish. Grain vanillas show nicely at the finish
C: This one will keep you busy, not only with water management but also with ever-changing balance struggles/ratios. Fungal oak is the order of the day, I like. It's not often you find a single cask (1st fill sherry) Balblair at a decent age for around £70 [Mar ’15], at this quality. Superb 'edgy' stuff, never a dull moment.
Scores a B