What was the occasion: I had two Balblair samples in my house. And while I’m still getting over my leg injury, and thus not drinking as much, I’m still trying. Just slower than normal. I believe my old review rate was 0.75/day, and we’re well below that now.
I’ve had this sample around for a while. Sorry to /u/Whiskyjig for not getting to it sooner. I didn’t know how I truly felt about Balblair until recently? Oh well.
What whisky did we review? Balblair 1975 1st Release, a 32-year-old sherry cask matured whisky from Balblair. This came out back when Balblair both did and didn’t add an age statement to their whiskies. We knew the vintage, and we knew the bottling date, but it wasn’t on the label. Also there would be different releases, of which had different dates, compositions, and casks that were used.
All of the releases were 46%, which usually turned me off, if I’m not going to lie, but we’ll get to that in the bias section.
What’s the distillery? Balblair once killed a man, just to watch him bleed. Oh, wait, that was a Johnny Cash song. Balblair, as a company or distillery, has not killed a man, just to watch him bleed.
Here’s something interesting: Balblair has used the same water source, the Ault Dearg burn, since inception. They even had a different burn that was closer, but didn’t want to change the flavour. That’s dedication, certainly, and you don’t see that anymore given most companies are willing to sell their children to increase profits by a penny.
Oh, and a burn is either a large stream or a small river, for you non-geology nerds (myself included, I’d get lost in a box with a map).
What’s my bias? I’m not super happy that a lot of Balblair is always watered down. But I think, now that I examine my bias, that I was off base.
I’ve spoken before of distilleries that need to be cask strength, ones that have good blenders who can get away without it, and ones that being cask strength doesn’t impact it enough to be required. However the vast, vast majority of distillery releases typically follow the idea that cask strength releases are better tasting to me.
Thus I’ve enjoyed a lot of less-than-cask-strength Balblair whiskies, but I can’t wrap my head around it. Thus my bias.
So let’s see if this helps change that mentality, shall we?
Cask type: Spanish Oak Ex-Sherry Casks
Number of bottles 3,000
Colour: 7.5YR 5/8
Nose: Brown sugar, nectarine, candied nuts, nutmeg, grassy
Shy nose. Not helping my previous statement, is it? That said, I stick with it, and there’s elements of the sherry, elements of Balblair (nectarine), and a good balance. That said, this is a 32-year-old whisky. Other similar aged whiskies have had noses that blew my socks off (pun intended).
It’s nice, it’s just so shy I’m probably going to dance with someone else and my future children will have to come back in time to stop me to ensure they don’t disappear, possibly using a poorly made vehicle to do so.
Taste: Lemon, cinnamon bread, almond, apple, caramel
So you have this shy nose, this slight sherried Balblair, nothing too nuts, and then you get this very standard mix of Autumnal flavours that aren’t shy at all. It’s like the edible kicked in all of a sudden (I don’t mix drugs, I hadn’t taken one at the time of drinking this). You go from “huh, this isn’t much” to “wait, there’s something happening, I’m happy again and can take a break from my anxiety”.
Big cinnamon and yeast notes, but not enough to overpower the rest. Love the profile.
Finish: Strawberry, lemongrass, brown sugar, macadamia nuts, plum, smoke
Alright, now we have a stew going. No, it doesn’t taste like stew, that’s a saying. A saying is a word salad you say to sum up something so you don’t go over explaining things.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the finish, I can look up and see that. This finish is the main attraction. Back in the before time, when Black Arts was worth buying (yeah, I said it), some of the releases had this real kitchen sink approach to finishes: So many flavours that you feel bad attempting to write them all down.
This has that finish. Nutty, sweet, smoky, fruity, herbal, and more, but eventually you realise that you have to stop writing down flavours and let the words do the articulating (thanks writing podcast).
Conclusion: Nutty, grassy, fruity, and spicy, with a great finish, but sadly the shy nose isn’t doing it any favours. It leads me to have an issue: How do I rate a whisky like Maria? Well first off I ask her to stop yelling in a field, there’s a war going on.
Look, you gotta know you. And love yourself, but that’s another projecting rant for another day. Do you care about a great nose? No? Then do I have a whisky for you. Do you love a bombastic finish? Then do I have a whisky for you.
I liked this whisky. I’m honestly thinking I’m going to keep at least one eye open for other Balblair releases after these two reviews. But I can’t say the nose isn’t bugging me. Like finding out a significant other is wanted for selling kittens to a creep with a wood chipper, it’s hard to ignore. If you ever have the chance to try this, try it. Really nice whisky, all considered.
Scotch review #1633, Highland review #276, Whisky Network review #2363
One thought on “Balblair 1975 1st Release”
Great review, very detailed and informative. The finish seems to be the highlight of this whisky, despite the shy nose.
founder of balance thy life