This will be the third Blair Athol review of 2017 here at
Whisky Rover, at this rate we’ll have covered the complete range of releases by
Christmas given its scarcity generally as a single malt. As a refresher we had
the Fauna & Flora classic bottling that is still widely available at most
Diageo distillery shops. Then a recent visit to the distillery itself prompted
the purchase of the Distillery Exclusive bottling that was pleasant enough.
The distillery when I visited it earlier this year was
closed for the silent season, thereby allowing the replacement of a still that
had endured for over 60 years. The still room was particularly fascinating as 4
stills are squeezed into a space that seemed only slightly larger than your
living room. In theory you could outstretch your arms and touch 2 of the
stills, not that this is recommended as the heat in that room must be something
else when they’re all in operation. Such was the confinement that to replace
this ageing still, the roof of the building had to be removed and the fat
copper still plucked out in a scene I like to imagine along the lines of Monty
I’ve got another Blair Athol lined up with the Manager’s
Dram bottling, but don’t worry my allegiances remain with The Tormore. With all
this official-ness (I guess that isn’t a real word), we should take a look at
the fertile independent sector and none other than Cadenheads. Now, if you’ve
stumbled across this website only recently, or only follow those than indulge
in PR friendly news updates, then you’ll be blissfully unaware that Cadenheads
for their 175th Anniversary have been depriving whisky enthusiasts
of their regular social activities by releasing bottles on a monthly basis.
It’s been a tough gig let me tell you, with this 28-year-old
appearing in their March outturn and representing only the sixth review I’ve
gleamed for that particular month. Even now as I type this introduction,
April’s releases will include a Ledaig, a 31-year-old Canadian whiskey, an
inviting Bladnoch that I’ve already tried and a rich Glen Grant sherry butt.
All incoming here and another month spent eating beans on toast; but its worth
if for the whisky.
For now, we’re sitting down with this Blair Athol, distilled
in 1988 before being bottled at 28 years of age in 2017 resulting in an outturn
of 306 bottles. As it’s an entry in the Small Batch range it’s actually a
vatting of 2 bourbon hogsheads and 53.6% strength. This method of combining
casks can produce an interesting dynamic where distillery characteristics are
amplified and potentially a weaker cask still brings something to the equation.
This bottling would have set you back around £118, which considering its age
and scarcity of single malt bottlings from Blair Athol, is good value indeed.
Colour: a sister ratched vanilla marshmallow
Nose: continuing that vanilla and cream feeling, its punchy
without water and has plenty to say! There’s a surprising level of waxiness
that I wasn’t expecting here nor the hint of strawberries, or is it raspberries
if you leave it to stand for longer? A certain redness that’s for sure and it
mixes in well with the sugary caramel and almost beeswax reverting back to the
beginning. A sticky, fruity jam quality as well, blackcurrant I reckon and red
liquorice. With water it was almost as if I had a cold once again and was
picking up cherry menthol lozenges.
Taste: very juicy on the palate with that charred cask
around the edges, smothered in molten chocolate. Dirty vanilla as I like to
refer to it as; very active wood dynamic influence here. Almost a saltiness
tang towards the end – have Cadenheads kept these casks at Campbeltown I
wonder? There’s an earthiness and almost balsamic depth to the experience here
with a dark chocolate finish.
Overall: well, another overlooked star amongst the March
Cadenhead outturn. For the price this delivers and it does make you think
whether Blair Athol deserves more of the single malt spotlight if it can free
itself from the shackles of the Bell’s blend. A robust and well defined whisky
with more to say than you’d envisage and perfectly drinkable at cask strength,
speaking of which time for another…
Labels: 28 year old, blair athol, cadenhead, featured