Balblair Vintage 1999
General facts: This bottling is a travel retail-release of 1 litre and an ABV of 46%, without chill-filtering and caramel colourant. This specific bottling is the first release of its kind and was distilled and bottled 1999 – 2015. This makes it approximately 16 years old, and when it comes to maturation it’s rested on both American and Spanish oak.
Colour: Light copper
Nose: Fresh almond paste at first, together with creamy cardamom – think of Shrovetide buns!
Then sweet coconut and fresh, green apples. The classic sherry notes with dry spices are here but are subtle and keeps in the background. After a while the note turns almost turns into something like an old, try sherry cask they just emptied from whisky. For those of you who like some good old “bung hole sniffing” (to smell empty casks – feel free to google it, but for God’s sake do not forget to add the word “whisky” in your query…), you know what I mean. It’s a lovely kind of stale not, in a way. Enough about that, for the nose is also full of flower – Violet? Lilac? Both! With water the nose becomes both even more floral and sweet-and-sour, kind of like the candy “violet pistols” and tangy market sweets.
Taste: Loads of grapefruit and oranges, almost like orange liqueur in a way. The the spices emerges, mainly cinnamon. A whole lot of roasted coconut, malty sweetness and some honey, a bit like waffles with caramel sauce. The nuttiness from the nose is still there but less sweet and a faint, faint note of oak sneaks by. After a few drops of water heaps of dark chocolate surfaces.
Finish: The aftertaste is at first quite cautious, but then a substantial amount of soft vanilla, fudge and chocolate arrives.
Balblair Vintage 1990
General facts: This whisky was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2014, meaning it’s about twenty-three or twenty-four years old. The ABV is 46% and as per usual Balblair has neither artificially coloured nor chill-filtered it. This specific bottling is the second release of the Vintage 1990 and has been matured on both American oak (ex-bourbon) and Spanish oak (ex-sherry). It has first been matured for twenty-one years on the first mentioned cask type, and then transferred to Oloroso-casks for the final approximately two-year-long maturation.
Colour: Deep reddish amber
Nose: Richness to the max – what a luscious nose! Heaps of dark jam, loads of sweet cherries and honey-roasted almonds. Fresh plums, tons of caramel sauce and playful vinous notes. This is a Balblair with some seriously pumped muscles! Cardamom, vanilla, lemon curd and rum-raisins. Sinfully lovely nose, this!
Taste: Woaw, a lot of stuff going on here! Astringent oak that pulls your tongue meets dark berries like blackberries, chokeberries and sour cherries. Then these bold flavours are accompanied by hazelnuts, and quite a lot of butterscotch. The body of the whisky is big and with spices like cloves, ginger and cinnamon it’s basically pure Christmas feeling in a bottle!
Finish: The finish of this whisky is really long and starts out in a slightly dry and spicy way, plays some middle tunes with some roasted hazelnuts and ends with some fresh lemons.
So perhaps some sort of conclusion is in order ?These are, evidently, two really decent and delicious whiskies, but when comparing it is clear that the Vintage 1990 plays in a league of its own. The Vintage 1999 I’ll probably always want to have in my own whisky cabinet and has a lovely balance between American and Spanish oak where the latter of the two doesn’t take over the taste experience. The Vintage 1990, on the other hand, throws itself head over heels into both cask types but hands the steering wheel over the sherry casks while arguing over which road to take. And I like it. By God, I like it.