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Balblair was built near the village of Edderton in the year 1790 by John Ross and remained in his family for over a century. Taken over in 1895 by Alexander Cowan, the distillery was moved to a different location in order to take advantage of new railway links between Wick and Inverness.
Like many of Scotland’s distilleries, the 20th century brought troubled times to Balblair. 1911 saw production come to a halt and the distillery remained silent until 1939 when it was used as a base throughout the course of WWII. As peace dawned across the world however, Balblair fell silent once again and thus it remained until the government intervened in 1949.
The production of whisky was no easy task in post-war Britain and debate raged around the use of rationed cereals for the creation of alcohol. Those in charge decided however that whisky as an export was too valuable to lose with one minister saying, ‘the country needs food, dollars mean food, and whisky means dollars.‘
Across the country, industry sprang to life and mothballed distilleries such as Balblair fired their stills once more working to government-set, annual export targets. with a particular focus placed on the American market.
Balblair would eventually come under the ownership of Inver House Distillers in 1996 and while single malt bottlings were once rare, a rebranding in 2007 saw the launch of bold new packaging with a focus on vintage releases. This 1999 vintage was bottled at 46% and is available in the UK for around £60.00.
Smell: The nose is Floral with Heather and Honey, some Vanilla and Lemon Citrus, Clotted Cream Fudge and Shortbread.
Taste: Honey, Salted Caramel & Toffee. Butter, Cereal and Vanilla with Pepper, Lemon and a touch of Lime.
Thoughts: A vintage of 1999 would make this single malt around 15 years in age. There was a time I would have felt £60 was a bit steep for that age but I fear it’s becoming pretty common. In fairness, it’s bottled at 46% without chill-filtering, so you know you’re getting a whisky with its heart and soul intact. Balblair has a lovely honeyed, malty character and maturation in bourbon casks has really highlighted that. Though, it must be said, it can be excellent in sherry, too. I found this to be a satisfying dram without ever really falling in love with it. Pleasant but a bit short of exceptional.
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