At the time of this writing, the SWC is over 6 years old. I’d like to say that the basic beating heart of any given meeting has not changed from when we first started, and that beating heart is sitting around a table and evaluating a new whisky we have not tried before, together. We still do that to this day for the most part, but over time we have introduced changes into the mix to keep people interested and for the overall experience of the club to continue to bear fruit. I’m happy to say it still does. For today’s purposes, most of those “evolutions” are not necessary to reveal here except for one: the blind tasting.
It occurs to me that we should have been blind tasting this whole time, but I think early on it was beneficial to know the whisky beforehand as we tasted through those early meetings. We were green and just starting this hobby, our minds needed to be filled with names. Over the years, though, a number of factors began to show their heads above the water. First, price does indeed affect perceptions of what you’re drinking. Nothing will lower a score faster than a disappointing $100 bottle. The inverse will affect the score as well. Second, a whisky should be judged on it’s own merits. Previous biases or bad/good experiences can affect a score or judgement unfairly. Third, we noticed that a previously scored whisky may yield a different evaluation if tasted blind. We have seen this to be true. All said, blind tasting made the SWC great again, and we will continue to utilize this tool for many more years to come.
When a malt such as Balblair 1990 (2nd Release) came along, it presented an excellent candidate for a blind tasting. It’s not a cheap malt, it’s an old malt, and we thought those factors might creep their way into our psyche like they have before (be honest, we all do it). Balblair distillery, founded in 1790, releases vintages, not age statements, but if that’s your thing, our selection today was 23 years old at the time of bottling. It was aged in ex-bourbon casks for 20 years, then moved to oloroso for additional two years and bottled at 46.3% ABV. Their clear worts with long fermentation give way to a fruity new make, and we are curious to see what 23 years in cask does to that. So, on to it.
Nose- Full. Licorice root, fruity and medicinal. Toffee and brandy. Some honey and nice cereal notes. Old oak with a slight funk. Sea spray and earth.
Taste- Light feel, a bit thin. A salty note. Chocolate. Cocoa. Grass with slight citrus.
Finish- Some barrel char (or peat?) Sour with a bit of bitter oak. Slight honey.
Comment- Takes you back in time. Not what one might expect, definitely an old sherried whisky with nuanced, unique notes. A learning experience, however, with all this said. We are not saving up our money to buy another.