Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
On what was described as a “significant day for the distillery”, Inver House – which also looks after Balmenach, Annoc, Speyburn and Old Pulteney single malts – also unveiled a new strategy for Balblair.
Expressions will continue to be released in vintages but will be bottled at a minimum of 46% abv for “greater body”, non-chill filtered to increase “viscosity and mouth feel” and will be produced without the addition of artificial colourings.
The '01 replaces the brand’s former entry-level vintage, the '00, and in adherence to the new template for Balblair expressions, carries an abv of 46% and is non-chill filtered.
Speaking of the '01 vintage, John MacDonald, distillery manager of Balblair, said: “We are delighted to be introducing this expression at a higher strength, uncoloured and non-chill filtered.
“Much time and care has gone into creating this malt and I am confident that whisky enthusiasts the world over will really enjoy this latest Balblair.”
The bourbon cask-matured single malt is priced at £32.95 for a 70cl bottle and is housed in an upgraded version of the brand’s 2007-introduced packaging.
Brand manager Andy Hannah said: “The new look Balblair represents an evolution of what is already a stand-out piece of packaging within the malt category.
“Improved brand visibility and enhanced material finishes will help support the brand’s continued growth.”
The 1992 vintage, from which the first bottle was drawn yesterday, has undergone ex-bourbon cask maturation, carries an abv of 60.9% - although this varies from cask to cask – and will be priced at around £80 per 70cl bottle.
Speaking from Balblair’s ‘brand home’ - an education centre for “discerning drinkers and trade partners” to learn about the brand and its vintages - Derek Sinclair, Inver House's distilleries general manager, told Drinks International that three 1992 casks (each holding around 140 bottles worth of whisky) have been chosen for the release.
If the vintage proves to be particularly popular, Sinclair said, further 1992 casks may be released, otherwise, another vintage will be selected.
Sinclair said: “Balblair’s concept is to have no generic age variants so everything is vintage. It means that we have to find variations between the vintages. But we only select them if they are premium quality.”
Andy Hannah, brand manager for Balblair added: “It also causes us problems because sometimes there’s none left [of a particular vintage] when people put orders in. It requires very close management.”
Balblair, billed by Hannah as a “high quality, boutique whisky” sold just shy of 5,000 nine-litre cases last year.