Friday, 17 January 2014
Balblair 1950s / 1960s
Strength: 88 proof (50%)
Wow. What a surprise I had when several old bottles of Balblair appeared at auction, and one in particular which took my fancy was a bottle at the unusual strength of 88 degrees proof which is about 50% ABV. One thing which I have learned is higher strength bottles fair well over a long time in a bottle than the lower strength ones and this has been sitting in the bottle for 50 odd years. The immediate thing I noticed with this was that the fill level was high in the neck which tells me that it has been well looked after and protected from the elements of heat and light which tend to cause evaporation to the angels, and negatively affect the juicy whisky inside. After some frantic and probably out of control bidding at auction I came into the possession of this lovely bottle and I can't wait to enjoy it.
On investigation it was definitely bottled in the 1960s, but without knowing the exact age of the whisky it is hard to pin point the distillation date. I reckon the malt is between 5 and 10 years old which at the older side of the guess would put this as 1950s distillate, and it is something very special indeed to think that this was getting made in post-war Britain.
Back when this was made the production methods would have been a lot different from now with old fashioned floor maltings, cast iron mash tuns, and direct firing of the stills all which help result in a completely different type of spirit as produced today.
Nose: Very bright and fruity and the glass is overflowing with estery notes. I am getting lots of tropical notes but pineapple stands out and it reminds me of the Lilt soft drink with an almost sharp and tart bite around the edges. Apple juice and the fruit turning more sweet like Banana foam sweets, and that soft, sweet foamy note turning into marshmallows. The sweet fruit notes are turning into hard boiled sweets like the travel sweets you get at the airport and the candy element finishes with some soft bubblegum. There is something more savoury happening that reminds me of green olives which have been salted and covered in more olive oil. Briny and coastal! Some smoke seems to be lingering about which is a mixture of light peat smoke but also cask char smoke. Soft dairy fudge just rounds everything off nicely.
Palate: This is heavy and oily with way more than you would expect from such a young malt. It is sweet and rich, and like chewing on fruit salad sweets, and the sharpness from the fruit is enough to give a little kick alongside the higher alcoholic strength. It is waxy and honeyed and toffee.
Finish: Mouth coating with a medium length finish. There is a little young solvent spirit notes coming through, but this is big and fruity and oily and satisfying.
Comments: What can I say? Maybe not the most complex spirit in the world as it has clearly not spent the bulk its life in wood, but the spirit itself is magical and captivating and dreaming to a time when this was made is a truly special experience.