Balblair's vintage release strategy offers a rare chance to experience spirit distilled during the same year at different ages. This was the second release of the 1997 vintage, with another five years in the casks compared to the first release.
This miniature was part of a set I purchased at the Good Spirits Co in Glasgow in 2013.
Balblair 1997 Second Release
Nose: pretty standard ex-bourbon barrel whisky - good balance of caramel, oak, vanilla, milk chocolate, and malt, greener young Balblair notes are becoming herbal, berries, orange peel, and vague fruitiness in the background. After adding a few drops of water the balance shifts towards the spirit and away from the cask - more green malt, less caramel and oak, plus a little bit of pineapple, pear, and mocha.
Taste: sweet caramel and roasted malt up front, vanilla in the middle, joined by well-integrated oak and some light green notes going into the finish. After dilution it feels more youthful, with more green malt and less oak/caramel, plus extra vague fruit around the middle.
Finish: a huge wave of espresso chocolate mousse, cinnamon, plus well-integrated oak and cedar in the fade out
This is one of those rare whiskies where the finish is the best part of the experience. The aromas and flavors are totally decent but somewhat unremarkable in comparison to the confectionary experience after the swallow. Much of that is lost with the addition of water, so I'd hold off unless you have a whole bottle and want to experiment.
There is a clear evolution from the younger 1997 vintage that I tried a while ago, with a switch from a more spirit-driven release to a more cask-driven release. In many ways this takes some of the best parts of bourbon and repackages them in a malt whisky context, amplifying the good parts (caramel, vanilla, chocolate/coffee) and smoothing out the rougher edges (overly aggressive oak) into a very tight package. It's not particularly complex, but what it does well it does very well. I wish I could have picked up a whole bottle when it was available, but such is the way of the whisky world.
11 hours ago