Balblair 18 Years



”It’s Not Right But It’s Okay”


Whisky Review # 938

Country: Scotland
Region: Northern Highlands
Brand: Balblair
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Casks with Finish in 1st Fill Spanish Oak Sherried Butts
Chill Filtration: No
Price Average: US$ 140 (December 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎Too expensive for what it offers.
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. It's an acceptable Malt but quite Mainstream. 

Colour: Dark Amber (Natural Color)

Nose:

This is actually quite similar to the 15 Years I tasted earlier this year in May. The light Varnish note is there again suggesting that some Fresh or Refreshed Wood was used during maturation. The Nose is okay but quite uneventful with some Cereals, Caramel, Dried Fruit and Spices. A clear Buttery note can be found as well as some Sherry accents although the Sherry cask influence is certainly not overwhelming. The Alcohol is not completely integrated.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Malted Barley, German Butter Biscuits, Vanilla, Caramel, Dried Fruit such as Raisins, Sultanas, Plums and Prunes, Apricot-filled Puff Pastry, Grass & Hay, Citrus Peel, Cocoa Powder, Charred Oak, Fresh Cut Wood, Nutmeg and Cloves.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Toffee, Red Berries, Sweet Apple, Nectarine, Peach, Nougat, Dusty Track, Herbs like Parsley and Mint, Caffe Latte, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Tobacco, Varnish, Licorice and Leather.
 

Palate:

The delivery is slightly Thin despite the adequate ABV. The mouthfeel is Creamy & Medium-Dry. It's mainly Sweet but a few Bitter and Sour notes provide the needed balance. It's not bad but quite mainstream and slightly boring.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas, Apricots, Plums & Prunes, Citrus Fruit (Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon), Charred Oak, Herbs like Parsley and Mint, Charred Oak, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cardamom and Tobacco.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

German Butter Biscuits, Honey, Nougat, Red Berries, Sour Cherries, Nectarine, Red Apple, Dusty Track, Fresh Wood, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Cocoa and Leather.

Finish:

Middle-Long and Medium-Dry. It's mainly Sweet but a few Bitter and Sour notes are to be found as well. The three extra years in the cask have created a slightly more rounded feeling. I find Malted & Toasted Barley, Caramel, Toffee, Vanilla, German Butter Biscuits, Charred Oak, Fresh Wood, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas, Prunes, Apricots and Plums, Nougat, Red Berries, Sour Cherries, Red Apple, Citrus (Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit), Nectarine, Cocoa Powder, Dusty Track, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Cloves, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Menthol and hints of Espresso, Peanut Butter and Leather.


Drinking Advice:

I prefer it neat but you can carefully add a few drops of Water. Don't overdo it as Wood and Wood Spice will take control.

Rating: 85.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion:

Balblair is located in Edderton (Tain) and is one of the oldest Scottish distilleries. It was founded in 1790. Since 2006 it is owned by International Beverage Holdings. In 2007 the entire range was relaunched on the basis of Vintages instead of Age Statements. Glenrothes did this as well. But this changed again in 2019 and a new Age-Statement core range was launched with the 12, 15, 18 and 25 Years. The Spirit is also used in Blends like Hankey Bannister and Inver House. The visitor centre was only opened in 2012. We visited this great looking distillery in May 2017 and did a very nice tour. Extra attention is paid to the fact the distillery was part of the set for the movie "The Angels Share" released in 2012. The distillery produces around 1.5 million litres of Spirit per year.

The Balblair 18 Years is not a bad Single Malt and it's a slight improvement over the 15 Years. It's certainly accessible and it will please many a Palate. For me personally it's too mainstream though and I can't get excited about it. I simply miss the "Wow" factor and at this price level I need that. It was exactly at this moment that I heard Whitney Houston on my stereo and her song sums it up quite nicely. "It's Not Right But It's Okay"

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                     December 1, 2021

All Pictures taken during our visit in May 2017

Ballantine's Limited


”That Don’t Impress Me Much” 


Whisky Review # 937

Country: Scotland
Brand: Ballantine's Limited
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Probably a Mix of Ex-Bourbon casks & Sherried Wood
Chill Filtration: Yes
Average Price: US$ 160-190 (November 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👇Too expensive for what it offers. The ABV is too low!
Buying Advice: 😡 Just not good enough at this Price level!

Colour:

Golden Amber (Artificially Colored)

Nose:

Not unpleasant but very Light. The ABV is clearly too low. In the UK this Blend is bottled at 43% and that makes total sense. I bought my bottle at the Travel Retail shop at the Sao Paulo airport. The Nose presents some Fruity and Floral notes and the Sherry cask influence is noticeable as is the Grain Alcohol. I was expecting a lot more though.

Main Aromas:

Grain Alcohol, Sweet Barley, Toast and Margarine, Toffee, Dried Fruit like Sultanas, Raisins and Plums, Sweet Apple, Pear, Nectarine, Charred Oak, Cinnamon & Cloves.
  
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Heather Honey, Vanilla, Green Grapes, Orange, Lemon, Cherry-Flavored Yogurt, Burnt Embers and Dough/Yeast. Traces of Licorice and Leather.


Palate:

Weak delivery. The low ABV does not do justice to this Blend. The Palate is a mainly Sweet mixture of Fruity, Floral & Herbal notes. The Grain Alcohol rules unfortunately and the Malt content remains mostly hidden. It's not really bad but at this price level we should get a lot more!
 
Main Flavours:

Grain Alcohol, Sweet Barley, Toffee/Caramel, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Sultanas, Sweet Red Apple, Pear, Orange, Charred Oak, Herbal Tea, Pepper, Cloves & Ginger.   

Supportive Flavour Accents:
   
Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Nectarine, Toast and Margarine, Lemon, White Chocolate, Cinnamon, Leather and Cherry-Flavored Yogurt.

Finish:

On the Short side as was to be expected given the standard ABV. The Grain Alcohol is quite noticeable and it becomes a little Edgy and Hot towards the end. I also find Sweet Barley, Slightly Burnt Toast, Dried Fruit like Sultanas and Apricots, Orange, Sweet Apples, Pear, Heather-Honey, Toffee, White Chocolate, Charred Oak, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Menthol and Licorice. The Finish is quite Sweet & Medium Dry.

Drinking Advice:

Added Water cools down the Grain Alcohol but does not help in any other way. The ABV is already too low as it is. I can't help but get the JW Red feeling!

Rating: 82.5

Nose: 21.5  - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20  - Overall: 20.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Drinking Experience On the Rocks: Okay/Good

Conclusion:

This expensive Blend contains some Malt from selected rare casks distilled at a/o Miltonduff & Glenburgie. But 
Ballantine’s owner, French Pernod-Ricard Group, also possesses Aberlour, The Glenlivet, Strathisla, Longmorn, Scapa & Tormore. So we might assume at least some of them to be part of this blend. I'm thoroughly disappointed by the Limited. It starts with the low ABV that does not do justice to this Blend. The overal feeling is Thin and Weak. And that's unacceptable at this price level. The presentation and bottle are first class but the whisky isn't. And that's what matters to me. It's not a bad blend of course but it's certainly not worth the money. Even on the rocks this blend does not convince on account of the low ABV. The idea behind the Limited is good but the result does not impress at all.

Cheers! 🥃

Jan van den Ende                                                                  November 24, 2021

Longrow 18 Years (2013 Release 13/184)



”Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine”


Whisky Review # 936

Country: Scotland
Region: Campbeltown
Brand: Longrow 2013 Release - Bottlecode: 13/184
Distilled at: Springbank Distillery, Campbeltown in 1995/1996
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Bottled in 2013  - Bottles: 4500
Age: 18 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: 2nd-Fill Ex-Sherry Casks (60%) and 1st Fill Ex Bourbon casks (40%)
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 150-250 (November 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐Okay at 150 US$. I wouldn't pay more though!
Buying Advice: 😛 One of those guilty pleasures to be enjoyed once in a while!

Colour: Golden Straw (Natural Color)

Nose:

Nice and slightly Dirty. Just the way I like it. The Sherry Cask influence is quite clear and I do get a few burnt matches as well. The Peat and Smoke are quite subtle and remain in the background. The Nose is a mix of Sweet, Sour, Salty and Musty notes with a good amount of (Dried) Fruit and Herbs. The Alcohol is noticeable but does not bother the Nosing procedures.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Malt, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Toffee, Heather-Honey, Fresh & Dried Herbs, Citrus Fruit like Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange & Mandarin, Cooked Apple, Dark Berries, Musty Charred Oak, Dusty Old Book Shelves, Dunnage Warehouse, Vegetable Oil, Nougat, Pepper, Aniseed, Mint and Licorice.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Earthy Peat, Cold Cigar Smoke, Forrest Floor, Dusty Track, Mixture of Straw & Cow Manure, Wood Polish, Wet Rocks, Brine, Hospital, Ashes, Burnt Marshmallow and Matches, Leather, Cheese, Pine Needles, PVC Pipes, Rubber, Tobacco, Dark Chocolate, Apricot-Flavored Yogurt and Ginger. Once in a while I get a distant hint of Banana Ice Cream.


Palate:

The delivery is Oily but slightly on the Thin side. This is certainly not your average mainstream Malt and it might be a bit of an acquired taste for many people. It's Dirty as Springbank should be but rather in a weird kind of way this time. There's lots of Sweet, Bitter, Salty, Sour and Musty Flavors to discover but some are less conventional. Imagine an old dusty Sherry Cask filled with a witchy mix of Herbal Tea, Cough Syrup, Slivovitz, Orange Liqueur, Plastic, Rubber, Gasoline, Peated Brine and Wall-Paper Starch that matures for 18 Years. That's about it! Still kinda like it though but it's certainly not my favorite Longrow.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Malt, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Wax, Cough Syrup, Brine, Herbal Tea, Aspartame, Mint-Flavored Bitter Chocolate, Old Books on Dusty Shelves, Vegetable Oil, Dusty Extra-Charred casks in a Dunnage Warehouse, Mint, Licorice, Pepper, Cloves and Ginger.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Vanilla, Cold Cigar Smoke, Dirty Earthy Peat, Hospital, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Mix of Cow Manure and Straw, Wet Rocks, Salted Bacon, Citrus Fruit like Orange, Grapefruit & Lemon, Slivovitz, Dried Fruit like Apricot, Sultanas and Figs, Mixed Nuts, Mustard, Tobacco, Leather, Plastic, Cooked Apples, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Espresso.   
  
     

Finish:

Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet with a few Salty and Sour notes as well. This might not be for everyone. It reminds me of a mix of Orange Liqueur, Slivovitz, Plastic and Wall-Paper Starch. There's nothing Main-Stream about this Longrow, that's for sure! Medium-Dry towards the end. I find Toasted Malt, Slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Pine, Salted Caramel, Honey, Vanilla, Cold Smoke, Dirty Peat, Cigar Ashes, Soot & Tar, Brine, Hospital, Citrus Fruit like Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit, Slivovitz, Dusty  casks maturing in a Dunnage Warehouse, Dark Berries, Sultanas, Herbs, Licorice, Pepper, Ginger, Leather, Tobacco, Rubber, Plastic, Aspartame, Mint-Flavored Bitter Chocolate, Salted Bacon, Cloves and Espresso. The Alcohol is noticeable but it stays within limits.

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and that mellows down this Longrow. I can imagine that many people would prefer it this way. You practically sacrifice the Finish though. You can certainly add a few drops but personally I prefer it neat.

Rating: 86

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Weird but still Good

Conclusion:

The Longrow peated Single Malt is produced at the Springbank Distillery. In 1973, Springbank started a project that would try to produce a peated Islay type of whisky on the Scottish mainland. The name of the project was Longrow, named after the old Longrow distillery that was located close to Springbank. In 1990 the first peated Longrow appeared on the market. The Longrow Malts are dried for 48 hours over peat smoke. In 2021 Springbank will produce 280.000 litres of which some 30.000 are destined for Longrow.

You can call this Longrow strange, weird, off-balance, dirty and musty. But you can't call it mainstream and that's a plus in my books. Beginning whisky drinkers might not like this Malt as it's a bit of an acquired taste but I find it interesting although it's certainly not my favorite Longrow. That award would go to the Longrow 11 Years Cabernet-Sauvignon Finish. Springbank is one of my favorite distilleries but once in a while you will encounter "Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine" as the Doors said in the sixties. And that's the perfect description for this 18 Year-old Longrow.

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                  November 101, 2021

Caol Ila 1983 (Signatory Vintage)


”Close To Perfection” 


Whisky Review # 935

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila 1983 (Distilled: 08/11/1983)
Bottled By/For: Signatory Vintage - 30th Anniversary - Bottled: 12/12/2018
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Scotch Whisky -  Cask # 5290 - Bottles: 213
Age: 35 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 52.7% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 900-1200 (November 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐 This can't be cheap of course!
Buying Advice: 😋 Delicious.

Colour:

Golden Amber (Natural Color)

Nose:

Today we have something extra-special in the glass and I'm really looking forward to nosing/tasting this 35-old Caol Ila. Well-Matured Islay Malts have something magical on the Nose and this Caol Ila is no exception. The Smoke and Peat are still there of course but they remain quietly in the background and cast their spell on the rest of the Aromas. There's quite a bit of Fruit around and although there are some Dusty notes to be found, the Malt is still mostly lively and fresh. The Wood is not at all overpowering and the Alcohol is wonderfully incorporated. I could smell this for an hour and that's exactly what I'm gonna do!

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, First Class Normandy Butter on Toast, Cake & Whipped Cream, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Toasted Almonds, Smoked Fish on the BBQ with a generous sprinkle of Lemon & Lime, Cold Smoke, Earthy Peat, Dunnage Warehouse, Brine, Dusty Shelves with old Books, slightly Sour Plums, Nectarine/Peach, Green Apple, Fresh Herbs, Cinnamon and Mint.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Toffee, Grass and Straw, Pine Needles, Wax, Hospital, Tarred Rope, Ash, Tobacco, Leather, Cigar boxes, Pear, Toasted Pineapple, Banana Ice Cream, Nougat, Caffe Latte, Olive Oil, Oak Char, Wood Polish, Wet Rocks and Ginger.


Palate:

The delivery is Creamy but I would have liked it to be a little bit more Thick and Fat. But that's a detail. The Palate presents a very balanced mix of Bitter, Sweet, Salty and Sour notes with a beautiful Smoke/Peat combo in the background. Love It!

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Quality Normandy Butter, Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Apricot-filled Puff Pastry, Cold Campfire Smoke, Earthy Peat, Forrest Floor, Brine, Smoked Fish covered with slices of Lemon and Fresh Herbs, Green Apple, Nectarine, Pepper, Ginger, Aniseed, Licorice and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee, Grass & Straw (Farmyard), Resin, Wax, Hospital, Ashes, Tarred Rope, Old Polished Wood, Toasted Almonds, Toasted Pineapple, Grapefruit, Cinnamon and Saddle Leather.


Finish:

Middle-Long. I wished it was longer though. A very pleasant combination of Sweet, Salty, Bitter and Sour notes. Quite Dry in the end. As on the Nose, the cask & spices are not overpowering and the Alcohol is perfectly integrated. It's slightly on the Thin side for such an old Whisky but that would be my only criticism. I find Sweet Barley, Wax, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Grass, Straw, Heather-Honey, Smoked Fish, Cold Smoke, Earthy Peat, Forrest Floor, Dusty Road, Ash, Lemon, Grapefruit, Nectarine, Green Apple, Dunnage Warehouse, Hospital, Polished Old Wood, Fresh and Dried Herbs, Leather, Pepper, Ginger, Aniseed, Licorice and Menthol.

Drinking Advice:

No Need to add Water to this Caol Ila as the Alcohol is perfectly integrated. But you can certainly add a bit if you prefer it that way.

Rating: 91

Nose: 23.5 - Taste: 23 - Finish: 22 - Overall: 22.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Excellent

Conclusion:

The Caol Ila Distillery was founded in 1846 and is located close to Port Askaig on Islay. It was bought by DCL in 1927 and through some mergers fianlly become part of Diageo. The distillery was rebuilt in 1974 and only one old Warehouse reminds us of former days. Traditionally, Caol Ila is an important component of Blends like Johnnie Walker, Bell's and White Horse. But during the last 15 years Diageo has made great efforts to position the Distillery as a Single Malt as well. Caol Ila is really beautifully located alongside the strait between Islay and Jura. The Core range includes the 12, 18 and 25 Years, the Distiller's Edition as well as the NAS Moch. We thoroughly enjoyed both our visits to the distillery in 2014 and 2017 respectively despite the fact that you're not allowed to take pictures.

I love well-matured Islay Malt and this Caol Ila is no exception to the rule. It's not quite perfect as the mouthfeel is a little on the Thin side. But otherwise it's a very delicious Whisky. Beautifully balanced with an array of Bitter, Sweet, Salty, Sour & Coastal notes and always that masterfully woven web of mature Smoke and Peat in the background. The Alcohol is perfectly integrated and the cask did a great job. What more could you want? Dollars I suppose! 

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                     November 3, 2021

Oban 21 Years (Special Release 2018)


”For What It’s Worth”


Whisky Review # 934

Country: Scotland

Region: Western Highlands
Brand: Oban - Special Release 2018 - Distilled in 1996- Bottled 2018 - 2860 Bottles
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 57.9% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Mix of Re-Charred American Oak & Re-Fill European Ex-Sherry Butts
Chill Filtration: No
Price Average: US$ 700 (October 2021)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😡Ridiculously Overpriced!
Buying Advice: 👎It's not worth the money. You better buy ten bottles of the 14Y

Color: Golden (Natural Color)

Nose:

The Nose is rather shy. Be sure to give it at least half an hour to open up. Even so, the Aromas don't jump out of the glass. The casks weren't extremely active and I wouldn't give it 21 Years in a Blind Tasting. The Nose is mainly driven by Fruit and Green notes. But those are interwoven with a fine coastal cloud and that works out fine. The Alcohol is there but does not interfere with the Nosing procedures. The Nose is pleasant but a bit unassuming and that's a pity.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Wax, Green Leaves, Vegetables and Apples, Orange, Mandarin, Lemon, Sweet Earthy Peat, Brine, Tar, Smoke, Charred Oak, Ginger, Cinnamon, Menthol and Dusty Shelves.
    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Honey, Yeast, Fruitcake, Marzipan, Nectarine, Dried Fruit like Apricots and Plums, Wet Rocks and Sand, White Chocolate, Caffe Latte, Green Olives, Smoked Pork Chops and mixed Nuts.


Palate:

Quite Edgy and Nervous when compared to the introvert Nose. Slightly Hot as well.  The Alcohol is very noticeable at this point. The Palate presents a mix of Bitter, Sweet, Sour and Salty notes and I miss balance here. It's a bit Rough and Dirty.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Salted Caramel, Wax, Orange, Mandarin, Lemon, Oak Char, Green Coconut, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Brine, Apple Beignets, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Dark Chocolate, Herbal Tea, Raspberry Jam, Menthol, Aniseed and Licorice.
    
Supportive Flavour Accents:

Vanilla, Honey, Toffee, Yeast, Melon, Dried Apricot, Nougat, Mixed Nuts, Caffe Latte, Tobacco, Cardamom, Cloves and Nutmeg.

Finish:

Medium Long, Bitter-Sweet, quite Hot and slightly Acid. Quite Dry towards the end. The Alcohol is overpowering and some Water will be required. I find Sweet Toasted and Malted Barley, Wax, Salted Caramel, Honey, Orange, Mandarin, Lemon, Green Apple, Grass, Dark Chocolate, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Mixed Salted Nuts, Charred Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom, Ginger, Nutmeg, Aniseed, Licorice, Leather, Herbal Tea and Menthol. A distant hint of PVC Pipes.

Drinking Advice:

I added a bit of Water and while it naturally helps to calm down the Alcohol, it also hides most of the Aromas and Flavours leaving you with a feeling that's not unlike brushing your teeth with Colgate Spearmint. I prefer it neat but add only a few drops of Water if you must.

Rating: 84.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 21

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion:

The Oban (Gaelic: Little Bay) distillery is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland and was founded in 1794. It is located in the seaport of the same name on the frontier between the Western Highlands & the Isles. This is where Peat and Heather meet Salt and Seaweed! Oban is now owned by the Diageo Group. It produces +/- 840.000 litres per year. The core range exists of the Little Bay, the 14 - & 18 Years as well as the Distiller's Edition with Sherry Finish.

I'm not a big fan of this distillery and this Special edition does nothing to change my mind, not even considering the quite ridiculous price. I can't remember having ever tasted a 21 Year-old Single Malt that was so Rough & Unbalanced. I must question the Cask Management in this respect. With 21 Years of cask time you would expect a fully matured Single Malt but that's not the case here. It still smells and tastes like a semi-finished good. If you like Oban, do yourself a favor and buy 10 bottles of the core range 14 Years instead. This special edition is not worth your money.

Cheers!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      October 27, 2021