Balblair’s rebranding and move from age stated whiskies to exclusively serving up vintage tagged whisky was a brilliant move. With it, though, comes the fact that when more than one expression of a vintage is released, you have to go to numbered releases. This is the case with the 1990, which sported a first release in 2009, which was a travel retail exclusive in a classic Balblair straight ex bourbon casks.
This expression was removed from the ex bourbon casks in 2011, and given two years in Oloroso sherry casks, so overall it’s 4 years older than the previous edition. It was released in November 2013 as part of a trio of new vintages (the firs fill bourbon cask 30 year old 1983 and refill bourbon cask 10 year old Vintage 2003). I don’t have notes on the previous edition of the 1990, but I did taste it, and am not positively convinced that the finishing in sherry was necessary.
Balblair 1990 (2nd Release), 23 Year Old (46%, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Reddish copper, sturdy necklace releasing droplets slowly.
Nose: There is a sour sherry note, which is the first on the nose. This being a sherry finish is evident, as you can still get the malt, honey and vanilla from the bourbon casks, with the honey mixing with dried fruit and some berries aroma from the sherry casks. You still get the cereal notes despite this being almost a quarter of a century in cask (which would, of course, suggest refill bourbon casks for those first 21 years).
Palate: Viscous, spicy with pepper and hint of chili, not a sweet dram at all. A lot of grapefruit rind in there. Over this basically good dram (for lovers of bitter notes), you get some sour sherry (which I would attribute less to Oloroso and more to Amontillado).
Linger: Dry on the inside of the cheeks, cerealy and spicy on the tongue, with a hint of honey, and an overall really lovely bitter note. Not what I’d expect from a sherry finish, although on second thought, this is actually a good combination of the predominant effects of both.
This dram is nothing like what you’d think you’re getting when you hear it’s finished in Oloroso sherry casks. I’ts a good tipple, but I found it to be a bit all over the place. Good bottle to have and enjoy, but something about it is inconsistent. I do love Balblair’s bourbon cask matured whiskies, and I absolutely adore the full sherry cask matured (see my review of the single cask Vintage 2000 here). The finish, I’m not so sure about.
I tasted this expression from a sample, not from my own bottle. I do own a closed bottle of this expression, and when I open it, I might need to revisit this review after having a few drams of it.
Yet I still do wonder if it wouldn’t have been better off without the Oloroso finish?