Jul 102016
 

Blair Athol distillery is a picturesque Eastern Highlands distillery which serves as Diageo’s spiritual home for Bell’s blended whisky.

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

As such the distillery has a very active visitors center and even has a couple expressions available for purchase only at the distillery shop. The distillery is very clear on its wood policy: stock for Bell’s whisky is matured in Bourbon casks whereas the rest of the production is matured and Sherry casks. Fermentation time is really short (52 hours) which creates a rather malty character, still present after almost three decades in a refill Sherry cask.

Photo Credit: rumblie.com

Photo Credit: rumblie.com

In Diageo’s Flora and Fauna series Blair Athol’s symbol is the otter. The reason for that is that the Allt Dour burn runs through the distillery grounds and translating the Gaelic into English its name is Otter’s Burn, hence the otter on the label.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Signatory Vintage Blair Athol 27 Year Old 1988, Bottled for The Whisky Exchange from Refill Sherry Butt 6845, Distilled 14.10.1988, Bottled 16.5.2016, Yield 565 Bottles  (55.7%)

Appearance: Bronze with thin legs peeling off a pretty persistent necklace.

Nose: Sweet sultanas and and a somewhat metallic Sherry note. There’s a dryness in the nose together with cinnamon and clove and dried apricots. Some sour red fruit comes through together with sweeter berry notes becoming fruitier as it breathes in the glass. A few drops of water make the nose dryer on the one hand and bring out more of the classic Sherry on the other. With water, the nose gets almost bone dry and chalky.

Palate; dry with a concentrated sweetness. Oak with notes of manuka honey. A little bit of water brings out a mixture of cranberry and blueberry together with a higher level of spice, and sharper cinnamon, and more classic sherried dried fruit.

Linger: long with a slightly sour sweet note especially on the tongue. There’s quite a bit of dryness on the inside of the cheeks and a light spicy note along the sides of the tongue running all the way down the gullet. After water is added the linger is spicier yet.

Conclusion

This dram needs time to open up you might want to have some water handy, as three or four drops at a time help it along. This is obviously a great selection of great spirit matured in a really good cask. The £120 price tag is fully in line with current market prices.

 

Sep 052015
 

Blair Athol distillery serves as the spiritual home for Bell’s blended whisky, which is the best selling whisky in the UK. Bell’s became part of Diageo after Guinness eyed Bell’s success 1985, and acquired it through a hostile takeover. Bell’s signature malt is Blair Athol, but it also has malts from Dufftown, Caol Ila, Glenkinchie and Inchgower. Also figuring in the blend was Pittyvaich, but after the distillery was closed in 1993, blending stocks dwindled off and are no longer used in Bell’s.

Photo Credit: talesfromtheemptynest.com

Photo Credit: talesfromtheemptynest.com

This is an old distillery, one of those established in the late 18th century (1798), but does not have its own bottlings. The distillery was part of UDV’s Flora and Fauna series, where a 12 year old with an otter on the label was released, and bottles of this expression are still available. One 27 year old was bottled in the Rare Malts Selection series in 2003 at 54.7% ABV, but subsequently none of the annual Special Releases featured a Blair Athol. The only other bottling is a 2010 NAS distillery exclusive bottled from a First fill sherry cask at cask strength (55.8% ABV).

The late Michael Jackson described Blair Athol whisky as one that “matures quickly and behaves like a gentleman” and as sturdy and well proportioned.

Photo Credit: clydesdale.se

Photo Credit: clydesdale.se

Wemyss Malts Blair Athol 1986 – Autumn Berries – Hogshead bottled 2012, Yield 268 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Straw, thin legs.

Nose: Malt and cereal, with honey, floral notes and wax. After a while, the bourbon cask comes through confectionery notes and hints of rose water. Allowed some time, a sour note appears, reminding me of a white wine.

Palate: Buttered popcorn just on the cusp of going stale, beer sourness with notes of artificial sweetener, red berries but more on the side of raspberries and cranberries.

Linger: Sour and long fruity notes, with spice. Dry and somewhat metallic.

Conclusion

If you’re into sweet whiskies, this one is obviously not one for you. If, however, you like tartness, you’ll find this expression very rewarding and fun, especially sorting through the flavors on the palate.