Time has rolled on a bit. It seems like only yesterday that I was a balding computer programmer, sat at a table in The Whisky Exchange shop in Vinopolis, confronted by 10 excellent whiskies. It was the company’s 10th anniversary tasting, and I was a punter who liked whisky.
Move on five years to the present day. I’ve got even less hair and while I still sit in front of a screen all day, I now do so at TWE HQ and attempt to write words that make sense to people rather than computers. That extra five years also means that TWE has now hit another milestone – we are 15.
To celebrate our birthday, we’ll be releasing a few whiskies over the coming months, and the first is something special: a Balblair 2000 single cask, fully aged in a first-fill sherry butt.
It’s special because sherry casks are not really Balblair’s day-to-day business. They’re well known for their bourbon-cask-matured whiskies, and other than occasional indies it’s rare to see a fully sherry-matured dram – distillery manager John MacDonald specially selected this cask, as he reckoned it would be to TWE Director Sukhinder Singh’s taste. He was right, and it was a must-have as soon as we tasted it.
Nose: Rich and heavy ginger cake, studded with burnt raisins and maraschino cherries, and covered in bitter-sweet dark chocolate. Dry oloroso sherry, the kind they love in Spain, provides a heavy, vinous backbone, with cherry-jam-slathered black bread, rich earth, liquorice and dark sugars – demarara and molasses. Damp and charred notes develop, with flamed orange zest, charred oak and driftwood bonfires, doused by a rainstorm. Water brings out chocolate-fudge-brownie sweetness, sweet leather and brown toast. The fruit is subdued, but the raisins are less burnt and the cherries sweeter.
Palate: Intense treacle toffee, baked apple and bitter coffee. Cinnamon bark is joined by freshly sawn oak, driftwood and clove, leading to a drier palate than the sweet nose suggests. There is still sweetness, with plump raisins and touches of brown sugar joined by fruity dark chocolate and cinnamon sugar. Water adds more sweetness, but also sharpens the wood, bringing more oak, with sweet butter, nutmeg and bitter-but-balanced barrel char.
Finish: Lingering char notes, with liquorice pastilles, plump raisins, cinnamon sugar and bitter dark chocolate. Hints of Murray Mints develop as you consider your next sip.
Comment: The biggest and boldest sherry cask matured Balblair I’ve ever tasted. Rich and dark with controlled sweetness – a grown-up whisky. Drams like this make me lament the small amount of sherried Balblair available.
To go with the launch, we’re also running a prize draw:
Buy a bottle of the 2000 or any of the other core vintages from Balblair’s range and you’ll be entered into a draw to win a trip to the distillery, including a tutored tasting with distillery manager John MacDonald.
You can find full details over on our competition page, but the most important bit is that it closes at 11:59pm GMT on 14 November 2014. To whet your appetite, here’s my blog post from when I visited a few years back. They’ve finished building their visitor centre now, and it’s even more worth a trip.