General facts: This Balblair first release bottling was distilled in 1983 and bottled in 2014, which thereby makes the whisky somewhere between thirty and thirty-one years old. During all of these years it’s been maturing in American ex-bourbon casks and this specific bottling replaces the previous Vintage 1975. The ABV is 46% and the whisky has neither been chill-filtered nor artificially coloured (surprise surprise – not!).
Colour: Dark golden
Nose: Green grapes, lemon and syrup. Then some oak and oven-baked apples. This nose is deep and rich, but also creamy and sweet with banana, cream and fudge. With some heat a complex floral note arrives (Lily of the Valley?) that wasn’t there before, and the whisky turns even creamier. Kind of like whipped cream with vanilla sugar added. With some water the Vintage 1983 becomes a little less fruity and somewhat more tangy on the nose.
Taste: Sweet, smooth and ripe banana with apparent oak notes, caramel sauce and the same syrup as the nose indicated. Or maybe it’s brown sugar instead of sirup? Never mind, this is in either case a really powerful sweet-chock! After adding some water the whisky turns a bit more dry, astringent and undefinably spicy with dark chocolate, and the sweetness takes a big step back.
Finish: Ginger! Heaps of ginger! And sweet vanilla with oak again, in a lovely long aftertaste. After a few drops of water the finish is somewhat extended, and that dry sensation from the body of the whisky is now noticeable in the finish which reinforces the oakiness a tad.
This was certainly a very exciting dram – a caress followed by a punch in the face! Deep, complex and rich but without compromising on the liveliness, which becomes clear when the whisky shows a new side of itself when adding some water. I, who have recently fallen in love with the Vintage 1990’s sherry depth and intriguing rowdy flavours, probably have to admit myself defeated by a classic, old-fashioned bourbon matured whisky still. When it’s done properly is pretty damn amazing. And, in a sense, this feels like some sort of comfort, because as more and more sherrybombs are threatened by doom is nice to know that a world without heavily sherried whisky doesn’t have to be that bad at all. Long live the bourbon cask!