Category Archives: Balblair

Crazy good Balblair from 1993, matured in a first fill sherry puncheon, bottled by Gordon MacPhail


Region – Speyside – ABV – 53.4% ABV – Cask 1962 – First Fill Sherry Puncheon – This was around $150

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962It wasn’t long ago that I had a chance to sit down with my good friend Jonathan Bray to review this Balblair.

Actually, yes, it was quite some time ago…. back in May/June based on my tasting notes and the published date of Jonathan’s review. Ugh.

♬ Ti-i-i-ime is not on my side, no it isn’t! ♬ Where does the time go?!

My apologies to you, dear reader, and my apologies to Jonathan, for not getting this review up sooner.

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962On the nose — A host of notes you’d come to expect from a heavily sherried whisky: pickled walnuts, cherry pits, German brown bread, cola syrup, and dark bitter chocolate.

What you’d not expect (or maybe you would) is a quite present phenolic component giving off notes of a fireworks finale, burning cardboard, and what I can only assume is the scent of the Heaven’s Gate cult compound living quarters. They kept quite clean, as I understand.  You know, before the end…

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962A-a-a-a-a-nyway, I’m also detecting sulphured figs and dried papaya, too.

In the mouth — Chewy, unctuous, moreish, dare I say massive.

Tasting notes aside, my initial reaction is “damn, this is good tasting juice!”

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962Deep and dark fruits (insert Landry list here) which is countered by Balblair’s natural tropical fruit notes but they’re dried (more papaya, candied medjool dates, black currant, and interestingly some raw coconut flesh).

This is near flawless on the palate.

Finish — Perfectly timed tannins, sweet Thai chili sauce, decent length

In sum — While the nose presented some slightly off/sulphuric notes, the palate delivered in a way that few heavily sherried whiskies do. Stunning delivery of flavors and a finish that makes you want to sip more. Without getting into too much detail, the addition of water turns this into a vorpal +4 whisky of drinking. You basically roll a natural 20 on a d20 when adding water and the fruits just multiply.

Oy, Oi, Oy, this is a cracking good dram and if you can still find a bottle, you could consider yourself *very* lucky.  Not convinced?  Be sure to check out Jonathan’s review of this gem.

Two new whiskies for the Gordon & Macphail’s Private Collection. A 19yo Ledaig and a 20yo Balblair


Today, dear readers, you are going to get a two-for-one review session.

I’ve been reviewing whisky after whisky after whisky and have a whole host of notes at the ready.  However it’s been a little difficult finding the time to actually post my notes.

That said, seeing as I had a little window of time in which to post up a review, I thought I’d kill two whiskies birds with one review stone.

The two today, to me, are a couple of odd ducks.  I’ve never had a finished Ledaig until now.  The same goes with the Balblair I’m also reviewing today.  Both are wine finished and part of the Gordon Macphail “Private Collection” range of whiskies.  Furthermore, both are bottled at 45% ABV which is an unusual bottling strength given that 40%, 43%, 46% and cask strength tend to be the most common…

20yo Balblair finished in Crozes-Hermitage Wood – 45% ABV – $145

Some notes from Gordon & Macphail:

Private Collection Balblair Distillery Crozes-Hermitage Wood Finish was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2012 and again finished for 40 months from casks from the northern Rhône region of France.

On the nose –  Very heavy with the wine influence on this one.  It smells of tannins and Acid brand cigars (herbed, herbal, perfumed, perfumal? Nah, just perfumed).

Wow, chili peppers and… salted avocado (???).

Some fruits are hiding behind the winey scents.

Still more, we have some damp, dank sweetness swirling about the glass.  A oddly interesting nose.

There seems to be a bit of a fight going on with the scents here.

On the mouth – Similar to what I got on the nose.  The chili pepper zing hits the side of my tongue.  Mouth begins to water.

Cranberry relish and other tart fruit relishes.  Lots of red fruit and an interesting mouthfeel.

There’s a wet-like viscosity that is drying my tongue.  It doesn’t make sense but, it’s happening.

Cigars again.

Finish – Long, drying and filled with red fruits.

In sum – Totally NOT what I look for in a Balblair.  While it’s not *my* bag but I can see folks loving this one.

If you like your whiskies with a heavy wine influence, look no further.  This does a good job highlighting that aspect while still retaining it’s whiski-ness.

19yo Ledaig finished in St. Joseph Wood – 45% ABV – $95

Some notes from Gordon & Macphail:

The expression from Ledaig Distillery was distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2012 and finished in St Joseph casks for 40 months.

On the nose –  What’s to be expected from a nice, older Ledaig: Soft peat and nice fruits.

Apple lollipops, even apple schnapps.

Spiced gum drops, allspice.  Lots of various candied scents.

A bit of a mishmash and focused on the fruity elements but really nice smelling overall.

On the mouth – Here’s where is begins to get real!

Very wine forward but oh, so pleasantly so (red fruits, black pepper and just a drop of fresh cement)!

A little woody but not in a bad way at all.  It helps add in some wood spice elements.

A touch of wet cardboard (I often get this in whiskies where the cut of the distillate has a fair amount of tails.  Heck, I get this a lot in most Ledaigs/Tobermorys).

Great mouthfeel.

Finish – Drying with threads of peat throughout.  Pretty gosh darned long…

In sum – A very interesting whisky.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  While the nose seemed a bit too focused, it really drew me in to taste and this whisky shines in flavor.  A even keeled finish with decent length.

I could enjoy this repeatedly.

Thanks to CR for the official samples!!

Want to win a VIP trip for 2 to Balblair plus a bottle of Balblair 1965?

I know.  Just the other day I said that I rarely post up press releases and here I am posting the 2nd press release in one week…  Well, I’m doing so with very good reason!

I would think that you’d want to know about an opportunity to enter a contest to win a VIP trip to the Balblair distillery in Scotland PLUS a bottle of their 1965 vintage whisky (I know I do!).

Here are the details:

1st September 2011

Balblair Single Malt whisky and WIRED Magazine collaborated to create an exclusive photography competition for Balblair fans and WIRED readers, with exceptional prizes to be won. In September and October we will be encouraging talented amateur photographers to submit their work to the WIRED team. The brief for entrants is Balblair’s motto: timed to perfection. Entries will be judged by WIRED picture Editor Steve Peck and Editorial Photographer of the Year 2010 – Edmund Clark.

First prize in the competition is a VIP trip for two to Balblair distillery and a bottle of the oldest and most exclusive Balblair vintage, the superb 1965 (worth £1,500)

Runner-up will be treated to bottles of each of the vintages from the Balblair core range, currently including 2000, 1989 and 1978

Additionally, the winning entries will be presented in the January 2012 issue of WIRED (available from 8th December).

Not-so-dry facts

  • Competition runs from 1st September to 14th October
  • Entrants are asked to submit photographs (their own work) which encapsulate thephrase timed to perfection
  • All the entries should be sent to WIRED magazine at
  • Photographs will be judged by an expert panel including an award-winning editorial photographer Edmund Clark
  • For full entry details and T&Cs please visit WIRED Insider at

Balblair 1991

Highlands – 43%ABV – 750ml (New to the US Market!) –  $124 | Can’t find a source in the UK| €92

“Oh no there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues” – said some guy who obviously never had a Balblair!

If you’re not very familiar with my blog, let me give you the quick, Reader’s Digest version of what I try to do here (other than simply review whiskies): My goal is to try and categorize whiskies by how they would pair with the season we’re in or the mood you’re in.  (E.G. If you looked in the Moods & Seasons section in the top navigation bar of this site,  you may  find that in Cold Winter I might suggest you try some Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist because of the peat and pure body warming effects of that fine whisky.  If it’s a Hot August Night (G-d, I love Neil Diamond!), or the Summertime, you’d find (among other whiskies) the Balblair 1997)

So, in carrying on with this mentality, I will tell you straight away that this Balblair 1991 is quite the Summertime dram.  While it’s only April here in Connecticut, we’ve been enjoying temps of between 70-90deg Fahrenheit – that’s summertime in my eyes regardless of what month it is.

So sit back, relax and enjoy, vicariously through my following review, the newest 18yr Balblair expression – 1991 (then go out and buy a bottle or, read my review of the Balblair 1997 expression and buy that bottle.  Both worth their weight in whisky)

On the noseMuch more buttery than the 1997, the tropical notes are there for sure but there’s something a bit vegetal about the nose (carrot juice?) and quite creamy, strawberries & cream – hints of fresh lemon, freshly mown lawn

PalateNice attack (at 43%, it bites a bit more than I had expected), citrus infused butterscotch, a bit sporty and signs of youthfulness (tastes younger than the 18yrs that it is but, in a good way – nice vibrancy)

Finish Long-esque with some nice vanilla and honey (actually, more like vanilla yogurt with honey, that’s more like it)

In sum Another great summertime dram from the good folks at Balblair.  This one is very different from the 1997 expression but still quite refreshing.  The extra 6yrs added a nice level of smooth, creamy warmth to it (while still keeping it’s youth; it’s young in spirit I suppose).

Balblair 1997

Highlands – 43%ABV – 70cl (non-US) –  £29 | €34

I’ve got a couple of twitter buddies from the Holyland (one of them being Gal from Whisky Israel) who, knowing that I’m into the sweeter drams, suggested this one to me. They’ve not steered me wrong yet so I decided to listen to their suggestion and pick up a bottle.

This one is not available in the US because it’s not a 750ml bottle, rather a 70cl (or 700ml). Why the US will not accept bottles at the 70cl volume is just ludicrous and beyond me. Luckily, there are some good shops in the UK that do ship to the states so I got my bottle anyway. Ha, take that America!  In your face!!

Initial whiff Pineapple, right away. Some sweet melon, think casaba and a little bit of spice, like a gum drop spice.

On the mouth Waves of fresh fruit. So refreshing. Really, unlike any sweeter dram I’ve ever had. These are all tropical fruits (no apples, pears, etc… that you usually get from American Oak). Oakiness comes through now but does not overtake.  This is like a drinkable, tropical fruit salad.

Finish Medium-long, spicy, some oak and the tiniest hint of smoke (?? could be in my head).

In sum This stuff is so refreshing, you could forego brushing your teeth at night (or in the morning, if that’s your thing) and just get a dram of this stuff!