‘In times of need, there’s nothing that fits the bill quite like a dram of whisky’. Wise words from my wonderful mother which give some explanation to the perception of whisky I had as I was growing up. It remained a drink for the rents with an offer that was never extended to the children. It was admired, supped slowly and with great care and attention and always offered a moment for people to stop, catch a breath, be calm.
Whether because it was out of reach or whether the flavours were just too distinct for me to handle at that age, it never became a drink I wanted to spend much time with. But things are slowly and surely changing. I keep on finding myself in the company of people who really care about it and want to share with me just how personal, complex and special it can be.
I love discovering that each whisky has a story and a heritage that is so directly connected to people and places. Such is the case with Balblair whisky, produced in the highlands of Scotland at a tiny distillery run by John MacDonald. Balblair release vintage whisky’s at the time that they think it’s ready or in their words, ‘timed to perfection’. They recently launched three of their finest single malt vintages at a cracking event which I was lucky enough to attend. I was completely surprised by their 1999 vintage with it’s copper bronze colour and thick toffee sweetness. It’s been matured in ex-sherry butts so has both warmth and a gentle spiciness that I absolutely loved. The 1990 is matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish oak ex-sherry butts so has notes of raisins, toffee and honey all undercut by rich chocolate. Delicious. The 1983 is a very special whisky indeed and one I could happily get to know better. Having been matured only in Amercian oak ex-bourbon barrels it’s rich in butterscotch, toffee and vanilla and has a long, warming and full-bodied finish.