Tag Archives: highlands

Old Pulteney 17 Review

Distillery: Old Pulteney. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Price: $85.

I’ve long been a fan of the Old Pulteney. Maybe it’s the Winslow Homer fan in me, or the fond memories I have of my grandfather’s Old Spice, but from the design on the bottle to the taste of the dram, the whisky has always spoken to me of life on the sea and making a living with your hands. So when the good folks at this Highland distillery offered to send us a sample of the current Old Pulteney 17-year-old, I was thrilled. And I gotta tell you, the dram does not disappoint.

There’s a woodsy nose to it, with scents of honey, dried apricots, and maybe a touch of dark chocolate. The palate is immensely fun. The oak from the nose serves as the base of the palate, over which you get splashes of butterscotch, blackberries, and more of that lovely honey. All the elements dance together without ever getting in each other’s way. And the finish, man the finish. It’s sustained without overstaying its welcome–and the whole time it lingered, I kept thinking about the next sip.

It’s a terrific whisky, and at this price, it’s a must-have. Here’s to people doing their jobs well. Cheers, friends! – TM

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Balblair 2003 Review

Distillery: Balblair. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: about 12 years. Price: $60-70.

Balblair is a Highlands distillery I paid too little attention to until recently, and I’ve been glad to make up for lost time.

Distillery General Manager John MacDonald, who has headed up the Edderton-based operation since 2006, selects and releases vintages marked by year of distillation, rather than age.

The 2003 vintage is an excellent place to start–especially if you like your single malt on the spicy side. The nose has ginger, white pepper, lemon zest, and oak. Then apricot danish. On the palate, there are stewed pears, honey, then white oak, all in a seamless progression. The body is buttery–the 46% ABV serves it well. Candied citrus bourbon notes throughout, and lingering spice on the end.

A delicious introduction to Balblair’s current lineup. Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Balblair whisky online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Balblair 1999 Review

Distiller: Balblair. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: about 15 years. Price: $70-80.

It’s been a pleasure tasting my way through recent releases from Balblair, the northern Highlands distillery that proudly declares vintage years on its squarish bottles in place of age statements. This 1999 vintage was no exception.

The younger ’03 vintage, which you can think of as “Balblair 101” (as in “intro to,” not proof), was spice-forward in a very appealing way. The ’99 is too.

It starts with the loamy, mineral note–could it have been matured in ex-Dickel barrels? That’d be my guess. White, dry, gingery nose. A bit like the eye-opening Craigellachie 19, minus the spritz of sulphur. Lovely oily body with a balance of honey, malt, and spice. Finish: orange marmalade on toasted rye bread. Very nice!

If you overlooked Balblair in the past, you shouldn’t. If you’ve had it, let us know what you think!

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Balblair whisky online at Mash + Grape

A Balblair representation graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Aberlour A’Bunadh Review

Distiller: Aberlour. Region: Highlands. ABV: 60.7% (varies slightly by batch). Price: $65-80.

Looking for your go-to sherry bomb? Look no further.

Aberlour A’bunadh (pronounced ah-boon-AR, means “origin”) is a powerhouse cask-strength dram at a fair price. There’s batch-to-batch variation, naturally, so Google a bit to make sure you’re getting a good one. And there are plenty of good ones.

This one, the Batch 47, was a masterpiece.

It has a big nose of stewed prunes, French Roast coffee beans, molasses, and spice, especially allspice and clove. All these carry through to the palate, revolving around a rich, malty core. There are more stewed sherry fruits–apple, peach, and fig. Somehow it still maintains balance–and starting at a huge 60.7% ABV, it will take as much water as you’ll give it. Long spicy finish.

Love the Glenfarclas 105? Dreaming of the long-gone Macallan Cask Strength? Then the A’Bunadh is a can’t-miss.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Balblair 1990 Review

Distiller: Balblair. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: 25 years. Price: $125.

Balblair’s 1990 vintage is a quarter-century of bourbon-matured, sherry-finished goodness in a modest square lozenge of a bottle–inspired by Clach Biorach, a 4,000-year-old Pictish stone in the town of Edderton, where Balblair is based.

The 1990 is aged roughly 23 years in ex-bourbon barrels, then spends its final two years in ex-sherry butts. The result takes the same rich and spicy Highland profile I’ve enjoyed in the ’03 and ’99 vintages a step further.

The 1990 starts with a nose of stewed figs and black cherry. Rich and substantial. The sherry influence is distinct, but on the drier side, with dark toasted tobacco.

Palate: rum-soaked Christmas fruitcake. Nutmeg and allspice. Fresh pencil. (Yep.) The finish is very long, with dark chocolate, red peppercorns, and burnt pie crust.

If you’re a bourbon fan, think of this as the Rhetoric 21 of sherried single malts. If you’re not a bourbon fan, rest assured that’s a very good thing.

A top-notch release from a distillery that deserves more attention. Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Balblair whisky online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

anCnoc 24 Review

Distiller: Knockdhu. ABV: 46%. Age: 24 years. Region: Highlands. Price: $140-160.

Rounding out our recent series of anCnoc single malt reviews, here’s the heavy hitter of the unpeated line: the 24-year-old.

Bottled at a healthy 46% ABV, this is a rare value buy among older single malts. (Any idea what a 24-year-old Macallan would set you back–if they made it?) Interestingly, this bottling is a combination of ex-bourbon cask and sherry-seasoned cask maturation. As a result, it has loads of flavor, but more nuance than you’d likely get from all-sherry maturation.

I think anCnoc hit this one just right. The nose is a huge ripe berry basket, sweet and luscious and just wild enough. The palate is rich and dense, with wild strawberries, raspberry jam, vanilla custard, and a lovely full mouthfeel. The finish is wonderfully long. Along with the fruit come the brambles and branches now. At the end, fragrant black fruit teas and the bottom of a barrel of cherry wine. Very satisfying.

The 24 fulfills the promise that began with anCnoc’s very good 12-year-old, and leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy about this Highland distillery. Just two questions: 1) Can anCnoc’s peated releases be as good as their unpeated? Can’t wait to find out. 2) Is 24 years too old to be a daily sipper?

I won’t tell if you won’t.

Cheers, friends! – BO

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.