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Whisky Reviews

Balblair 1970s, 10 Year Old, Gordon and MacPhail, 57% ABV


This came highly recommended from u/zoorado, and the nose from the bottle sold me. I'm a sucker for good restrained old sherrying of Highland distillate. My high hopes were more than met. There are a few similar bottlings but this is the one I tried. As an aside, I drammed this at the legendary Swan Song bar in Singapore, which is THE spot for old and rare bottles, both well-known legends and unheralded (which tend to be of relatively good value). Due to the high overheads of renting in prime real estate, local taxes and prices for more modern IBs locally, the dram prices for more modern bottles tend to be on the high side of reasonable IMHO.

I have often made the mistake of trying multiple $15-25 more modern drams over that one $40-50 vintage dusty dram that blows my mind out of an initial desire to be frugal. Don't get me wrong, the modern stuff is well-made and tasty, but I feel penny wise and pound foolish in the end because most either don't quite scratch my itches, or have similar profiles/bottlings elsewhere I can get quite readily elsewhere for the foreseeable future. And then 3 drams in I end up getting the $40-50 mindblowing dram I should've began with, busting my initial budget even more. This is of course, all on me and not on the bar. Back to the review:

Distillery: Balblair

Region: Highland

Price: ~60USD/20ml dram

Cask Type: Some sherrying somewhere? Idk

ABV: 57%

Chill-filtered: Probably.

Color: 1.0, deep copper (probably added colour)

Drammed after 15 minutes in air, out of a nosing glass, from an open bottle with about a third left.

Nose: The perfect exemplification of old sherry rancio. I'm very lucky that I have tried freshly brewed, cold wattle cola and artisanal root beers because otherwise sherrying like this would be ineffable and impossible to convey by analogy to anyone else. That's pretty much the core of this nose, plus some mangosteens, figs and chestnut puree.

Palate: As perfect as alcohol integration gets, let alone at a generous 57% ABV. Medium texture, and takes a tropical turn. Mangosteen again, but this time joined by passionfruit, pineapple jam and nutmeg.

Finish: Medicinal, medium-long. Cherry-flavoured dextromethorphan syrup, sage, thyme, with a bit of cumin near the end that gives this a vaguely ayurvedic edge.

Conclusion: I've had some brilliant old sherried bottlings but most tend to have challenging notes, like minerals, smoke, wax or musty dunnage, upfront that may confound a lot of drinkers. If anyone wants to understand precisely what old sherrying is and why there is such a fuss around it, nosing this is first-hand demonstration. I wish I had a bottle of this and I'll definitely be looking closely at auctions now. It's great old sherrying with uncommon cleanness, clarity and definition, without sacrificing depth and complexity for the genre. If I had to nitpick, I'd rather the herbs and botanicals (especially the sage) balance out the initial hit of cough syrup on the finish a bit more, rather than gradually emerging as the syrup tapers away. I think that'd lift this dram up to a new stratosphere.

Score: 93

If it were named by the SMWS: There's Something In The Wattle