What was the occasion: Still at a tasting, slowly making my way through the options. Where are we at? Sherry country, on the edge of peated plains, near the port cask caves, on our way to adult candyland.
Man I’m happy I haven’t played Candyland in years. That game sucked.
What whisky did we review? Blair Athol 25 1995 Hunter Laing First Editions is a single sherry butt Blair Athol that was bottled by Hunter Laing under the First Editions bottling line. What is the First Editions line? All single casks, all at cask strength, and all without colour added or chill filtration.
So it’s Old Malt Cask without the alcohol watering down, or perhaps it’s Old & Rare but affordable. However you’d like to see it. It’s a separate group.
What’s the distillery? Blair Athol exists to remind whisky drinkers with a lisp not to giggle (Citation Needed). If you don’t get that joke, it sounds like a term for your end. There’s your riddle of the day.
Blair Athol is actually a main ingredient in Bell’s Whisky. How much goes into each bottle? Well current blends use quite a bit of grain, so perhaps we should drink Blair Athol to judge Blair Athol, and not the blend that… okay, let’s be honest, probably has less than 10% Blair Athol making it up.
What’s my bias? I think I’m Blair Agnostic, as I can’t think of a bias Athol.
For all of you ESL readers, the previous sentence is a play on words that sound similar when said out loud, and probably makes little sense without that context.
So I don’t know how I feel about Blair and certainly not his Athol. So let’s see if this changes my mind, shall we?
Price: $240 CAD
Cask type: Refill Sherry Butt
Cask Number: HL 17336
Bottled for: Sierra Springs Liquor (Canada)
Number of bottles: 85
Colour: 10YR 7/8
Nose: Strawberry, mint, chemical cherry, sulphur, anise/heather
The nose is a bit harsh in the same way that teenagers who find out something that bothers you are mean. It’s fruit, herbal, and has an edge like a katana.
There is some sulphur. Again, I use “some” when I mean “the amount usually reserved for battery factories”. There’s nothing subtle about this nose.
Taste: Sulphur, banana, black pepper, grain, lemon
You know it’s nice to have something where the theme from the nose continues to the taste. Do I love this theme, “loud enough to injure whale ears”? At times. There is less “strong sherry” influence (save for the sulphur) and less “red fruit” flavours, but it’s certainly tied into the nose.
Finish: Sulphur, smoke, cherry, heather, banana, floral
The finish wraps this all up quite nicely. If the taste is the whisky (and sulphur) and the nose is the sherry (which brought the sulphur), then the finish is whatever you call peace with loud tension.
Do I make a joke about Western Asia here or do I bring up a WASP-y household? Or how this whisky could help you get through either (maybe less so the first one)? It’s hard to nail it down, what with my senses being set to 8 while drinking this.
Conclusion: A sulphur bomb that has some unique aspects and a good amount of sherry too. I’m quite impressed.
I mean, if you don’t like sulphur, then it’s an easy skip. And maybe stop putting cat eyes on yourself for photos. That may only be for one of you.
For the rest, it’s a rarity these days to get a whisky with this much sherry influence that still feels like a whisky. It’s not all strawberry and light spices and meh. Is it as complex as I’d love for a 25-year-old whisky? No, not even close, but it’s unique and fun and well balanced, even if that balance is “turn everything almost up to maximum”.
Scotch review #1638, Highland review #278, Whisky Network review #2369