It’s been a boozy few weeks for me. Not that I’ve been out partying all that much, because I haven’t; but I’ve been to a few different tastings and drinks-related events. And, with Christmas coming up, that time of many colourful and highly alcoholic boozes, it’s probably a good time to write about them.
Firstly, a very exclusive event that I was honoured to be invited to – a Balblair Whisky tasting. It took place at the Soho Whisky Club, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of the stuff, and somewhere I’d recommend to any fans out there.
The Balblair distillery is purportedly the oldest in the world. It’s been going strong since 1790 by John Ross. There are still four members of the Ross clan working there, and two are called John. Strong on tradition, these Scots. Balblair is also the only distillery that exclusively does vintages, and very small batches at that. Others like Glenrothes, which I visited last year, do vintages but they also do blends, you see. Not that there’s anything wrong with a blend (my favourite from the Glenrothes trip was just such a blend).
I got to try four new Balblair vintages, starting with the 10 Year Old. It was a bit too harsh for me – you know when you take a sip of a strong spirit and it really hits you? That. But it was fruity, which seems to be a theme with this distillery.
The 1997 was next, and it was distinctly smoother, both due to age and to the first fill American oak bourbon barrels it inhabited all its life.
The 1989 was by far my favourite. Coming from second-fill American bourbon barrels, it smelled of creme caramel, fresh fruits (weirdly, banana) and vanilla. A long sip had absolutely no discernable harshness, even to my relatively untrained palate and it tasted exactly as it smelled… unlike many whiskies and the bloody misleading herbal tea!
I would recommend the Balblair 1989 as a brilliant gift for Dads, boyfriends, husbands and actually any lady friends who like whisky. Because if I liked it, it means it’s very drinkable, nay enjoyable. Buy it from the Whisky Shop, and make a whisky-lover’s year. Please note, I’m not getting paid to say this, nor is that an affiliate link! Just a genuine bit of advice after a kind invitation to an event.
The Balblair 1975 was smoother still, coming from American oak sherry barrels this time. I got cereal flavours and a very odd minty sensation from smelling it! I liked it very much, though not as much as the 1989…
The really interesting part of the evening came with the surprise opening of a bottle of the brand-new Balblair 1969 – a very, very exclusive vintage indeed. It had been bottled only a few days before. Its age made it not only a little less alcoholic due to the angels taking their share over the last forty-odd years – a mere 41.1% abv (usually they’re around 46%), but the flavour of the whisky was more complex than the younger models. Perhaps due to the different techniques they used for malting and such-like back then. It was really easy to drink, and I’d definitely recommend it as a gift… if it wasn’t going to cost around £2,500 a bottle. One day!
Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t much left at the end.
I had a lovely time at the tasting, especially since I always meet some really fantastic people at them. If you’re a fan of all things booze, may I recommend you take a peek at Gin Monkey (a lady not limited to gin!), Cask Strength (run by my old friend and fellow Chap writer Neil) and The Cocktail Lovers, a very smashing married couple of, erm, cocktail lovers.
Looking at these evenly-gendered links (although it’s probably true that most whisky blogs are run by men), do you think it’s true that more women are drinking whisky these days? I know Retro Chick would support that theory!