Bought: Marks & Spencer, 29th July 2015
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
80.38/100 – Whiskybase (average from 41 member votes)
I’ve been after a distillery release from Balblair for over 2 years, partially because they’ve been getting good reviews but mostly because I love the bottle shape! It’s certainly very cute. The first Whisky Bible I got by Jim Murray was the 2013 edition and the reviewed Balblair year-statements kicked off with 1965, which scored 96.5/100. Then followed 1969 – 94.5/100, 1975 – 94.5/100, 1978 – 94/100, right up to the newest 2001 release which scored 90.5/100. Clearly this distillery had been doing good things and for many decades!
My 2003 release scores a healthy 88.5/100 in the Whisky Bible 2015, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray says of the taste “the delivery is an absolute treat, churning out a succession of confident barley themes in classic Balblair style, from eyewateringly salivating and rich to crisp and precise. The sugars are crunchy and follow a crispy route.” The author concludes with “so beautiful thanks to its understated complexity and honesty.”
A score in the low 80s on Whiskybase might not seem very high but all those that write a review are complimentary, including “Balblair 2003 is targeting an all-round audience with its sweet and spicy flavours”, “good nose, palate and finish. Youthful, fresh and crisp” and “classic Balblair brilliance.” One negative said it would be better if left in the barrel for longer but that would make it a completely different whisky, like one of the older Balblairs. That’s next on the shopping list!
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015
85/100 – Whisky Bible 2006 (for ‘new’ version)
85.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
There seems to be a bit of confusion about the decade this bottle comes from. Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun reviews a similar NAS (non-aged statement) bottle from the 1970s and ‘The Whisky Exchange’ once sold a bottle they think was from the 1980s. My assumption is that the bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail (G&M), had the same label across the 2 decades. Based on the condition of my miniature Balblair, it seems more 80s than 70s. It’s the mullet and shoulder pads that gave it away.
It’s a shame Jim Murray didn’t start publishing his ‘Whisky Bible’ before 2004. I would have been interested in his opinion. The G&M 10yo he reviews in 2006 gets 85/100, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Mr Murray says only 5 words “a chewy, clean, malty dram”. What more can you ask for! Perhaps 46% instead of 40%, and a yacht in the Caribbean. But was this Balblair 10yo better or worse back in the 1980s? 85.25/100 on Whiskybase seems to suggest it was better. I’ve noticed that Jim Murray is more generous with his scoring than the members of Whiskybase, so getting over 85 is an excellent mark from them. Shame I only have 5ml. If you happen to find a bigger bottle at auction, brace yourself for that big, clean, malty chew!
Malt Han’s tasting comments from Whiskybase:
“Malty and fruity aroma, orange, ripe melon, banana, vanilla, peat, oak, prunes and cinnamon. Vanilla sweet taste, liquorice, mint, malt, apples, orange marmalade and almonds. Medium long, fruity and spicy end.”
Bought – Whisky Galore (online), 1st August 2013