When whisky became wine like

on 04 December, 2013

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.

Increasingly, whisky tastings are becoming like wine tastings. Many of the terms used to describe the wines are similar to those used for wine, particular when it comes to articulating the effect and influence of wood - vanilla and spiciness for example.

We are also getting more whisky and food pairings. Unfortunately, the hard work put in by the Berners Hotel’s chef(s) and Balblair’s PR team, in matching the vintages to canapés was scuppered by either the kitchen and/or the waiting staff. Sadly, the wrong dishes were delivered to the appropriate vintage.

Irrespective of that, distillery manager John MacDonald’s tutoured tasting was interesting and illuminating. Drinking any whisky with food is a stretch for most people unless you are out in one of the Asian countries where it is the norm.

Nevertheless, it gives us journalists, bloggers and whisky geeks something to write and twitter on about.

As to the vintages, the 2003 (they are all 46% abv, except the 1969 which is 44%), I got a clean, light, fragrant citrus notes (£40.99). The 1997 (£55) was smooth, creamy with more pronounced oak. Some toffee sweetness and spice on the finish.

The 1990 (£84.99) had seen the inside of oloroso casks so it was more opulent and there were notes of Christmas cake/pud. Complex, big and spicy. Distinct from the rest.

We then got to the 30-year-old 1983 which is holding up nicely. Intense, smooth with vanilla notes. A snip at £200. We finished with a 1969, with a sobering RRP of £1,300. It was surprisingly sprightly considering its vintage. Delicate, elegant and citrusy, it says in my notes.

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