Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Whiskey Wednesday: Balblair Comes to LA
Last Thursday, the good people from the Balblair distillery sponsored a party at the Edison, downtown, to kick off the introduction of Balblair to the US market. Balblair is an Eastern Highlands distillery. Unlike most Scotches, which release whiskies with general age statements (e.g. aged 12 years), the Balblair has opted for vintages. As with wines, their whiskies are identified by the year of production. While a few other distilleries are doing this (most notably The Glenrothes), it is still fairly unusual in the world of distillery bottled Scotch. The first two expressions coming to the US market are the 1991 and the 1997 vintages. Both were bottled in 2009 so the 1991 is 18 years old and the 1997 is 12 years old.
Balblair is owned by Inver House distillers, which is in turn owned by Thai Beverage (ThaiBev). Inver House owns the excellent Old Pulteney, but until recently, many of their whiskies were not available in the US market. Within the past few months though, they have released Balblair, Speyburn and anCnoc (distilled at Knockdhu). I'm always glad to see new releases on the US market, so kudos to Inver House for opening up the market.
The Edison party was very nice; it's hard to beat sipping whisky and munching hors d'oeuvres among the turbines and other strange electronics that make up the Edison's renowned steampunk aesthetic. There was also a bowl of dark chocolate bars, and as it turns out, Balblair pairs very well with high cacao chocolate.
Balblair was offering tastes of both malts. It's hard to do formal tasting notes in this type of setting, but I did get a good impression of both of the expressions being offered, which have very different characters. The 1997 is a floral, perfumy malt; lighter and younger tasting. The 1991, in contrast, has big malt flavors; it's very straightforward, very drinkable and should appeal to those who like the pure taste of malt, uninfluenced by sherry or peat. Both of the Balblairs clock in at 43% alcohol and are aged in ex-Bourbon casks. The 1997 will retail for $64.99, and the 1991 will retail for $129.99. They are available at specialty spirits shops.
FTC Disclaimer: The Balblair event offered whisky samples and a bottle to each attendee free of charge.