2015 Axis of WhiskyFest Tasting no. 2. Distiller: Heaven Hill. 45% ABV. 7 years old. Price: $30.
Brought to the Fest by the great-grandson of Isaac Bernheim himself. (See the excellent Atlantic article “The Jewish Origins of Kentucky Whiskey” for an eye-opening look at the little-known history.)
One of the few wheat whiskies on the market, with a mashbill consisting of at least 51% soft winter wheat. It has a rich, toasty, Maker’s-like palate. The body’s on the lighter side, but with great balance and mouthfeel. Honey. Light molasses. Begging for some BBQ.
Mild and maybe a touch underpowered compared to its corn-based cousins, Bernheim is still worth appreciating on its own terms. A modest but worthy tribute to the long-neglected legacy of old Isaac. – BO
Distiller: Balblair. 46% ABV. No age statement (10 years old). Region: Highlands. Price: $70.
This light, sweet, fresh-smelling dram was a natural to start off what would be a long, packed night of tastings at the inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest.
Founded in 1790, Balblair is one of Scotland’s northernmost distilleries, perched next to the Dornoch Firth. The distillery moved from age statements to vintages a number of years ago, selecting, as it says, for “optimum maturation,” rather than attempting a consistent aged profile year after year.
The 2002 vintage, bottled in 2012, is a light straw color in the glass. Very sweet nose with vanilla and honey. Surprisingly viscous for the low proof. Quite sweet palate at first, following the nose, with just a wisp of white smoke. With a drop of water, light spice emerges.
A delicate, highly enjoyable first dram of the night, any night. – BO
Buy Balblair whisky online at Mash + Grape