By Richard Thomas
As explored in my interview with distillery manager John MacDonald, Balblair made a switch from basing its line around the vintage concept to the more conventional age statement approach. In so doing, the 12 Year Old became their new entry level expression. This Highland malt is batched from stock aged in double-fired American oak casks and ex-bourbon barrels. In Scotch-speak, the former are basically bourbon barrels or casks built from bourbon staves (i.e. hogsheads) that, because they’ve been scorched up twice prior to being reused and possibly rebuilt, can’t be labeled as ex-bourbon barrels (which can be repaired and cleaned up, but otherwise left alone to be so named). The malt has been bottled at a fairly weighty (for a Scotch) 46% ABV.
A pour of Balblair 12 has that white wine-like, straw colored appearance one often sees in Scotch whiskies. I found the nose carried the scent of Granny Smith apples and pineapple, accented with a drizzle of vanilla. The apples carry over onto the palate, where the other notes develop a bit farther. That fruity base is joined orange blossom honey, cookie spices and a serving of oak chips. It has a light mouthfeel to it, so a good bit of “chewing” is needed to bring all of that out. The apples carry over into a light, fast fading finish, making it the dominant aspect of the whisky.
Over in the UK, this item fetches £45; in the US, expect to pay $70 for a slightly larger bottle.