Blair Athol Distillery Visit

Looking at how many amazing memories I’ve made in Scotland during my honeymoon I decided to partake in a little Throwback Thursday myself. For today I chose the Blair Athol Distillery. The very first whisky-stop on our honeymoon! Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to do a full distillery tour there, but while my wife enjoyed a cocktail at the Mash Tun Bar (I was driving) me and the barman got a bit nerdy about whisky.

It was a quiet day in the bar (and still early morning) which gave us plenty of time to talk. As it turned out the barman was as much a whisky geek as myself, which (I must admit) must have gotten boring for my wife after some time.

So, it was time to go back to get what we came there for… a hand-filled Blair Athol to share with friends back home! After filling the bottle the barman took me to see the distillery manager and told him we were visiting for our honeymoon. After which we were asked the question, do you like ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. To which I replied bourbon… the bartender corrected me with a smile though and said no, you’ll like the sherry.

I must have looked a bit confused at that and the distillery manager started to laugh and said, or do you like both? And then produced to samples of Blair Athol straight from the cask. A 2009 ex-bourbon cask and a 1995 ex-Sherry cask. I now understood why the barman had urged me to take the sherry…

In the end I decided to bring these samples back home with me, to enjoy some of the highlights of my honeymoon once I was back home. And to take some tasting notes ofcourse, which I will share with you here below:

Tasting Notes – Blair Athol 2009 ex-Bourbon

ABV: No idea, cask strength is all I know!
Age: 14/15 years old (I don’t know the exact fill date)
Distillery: Blair Athol
Chill-filtered: No
Natural Colour: Yes

Vanilla custard and then some! This is an absolute vanilla bomb. But so well rounded and elegant. Aside from vanilla I’m picking up on notes of honey, peaches, candied orange peel, and brown sugar. On the nose this seems like the perfect dessert dram!

Where the nose was elegant above all else, the palate packs a punch. Honey and vanilla ar both still abundantly available, but they’re paired with liquorice root, crushed peppercorns, and even a little ginger spice. The contrast between sweeter notes and spicier oak influences works wonderfully here and gives this dram a lot of depth.

The finish is medium long and sees the sweeter elements fade slowly to make place for a touch more tannic notes. A slightly bitter liquorice root tea note becomes dominant near the end. But powdered sugar and fresh honeycomb stays  noticeable as well.

This is a perfectly executed example of the amazing flavours an ex-bourbon cask can bring to a whisky. We might see more and more popularity for sherry casks lately, but this dram proofs neither age nor type of wood says anything about the quality of a whisky. This roughly 15-year-old ex-bourbon cask Blair Athol is very close to perfect!

Tasting Notes – Blair Athol 1995 ex-Sherry

ABV: No idea, cask strength is all I know!
Age: 28/29 years old (I don’t know the exact fill date)
Distillery: Blair Athol
Chill-filtered: No
Natural Colour: Yes

This is bliss! There’s absolutely zero sharpness on the nose, which allows me to really dig deep into the flavours here. Strawberry marmalade, dried figs, fresh dates, manuka honey and maraschino cherries. Pine trees, cigar boxes, and antique wooden furniture. This nose offers an abundance of aroma’s with an insane amount of complexity.

The palate really starts to show the age of this whisky. The fruits turn to darker stone fruits, and the wooden influences are ramped up significantly. The liquid is completely mouth coating and keeps surprising met with notes of cherry wine, dried prunes, and plum marmalade. You could almost call it sticky, in the best possible way.

The finish is long, and that seems to be an understatement. I’ve been savouring it for over 15 minutes now and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. It has attached itself to my palet and if it’s up to me, it can stay there as long as it likes. It’s simply that good. Bitter tannic notes are balanced out perfectly by dark red fruits. A combination of such complexity, intensity, and yet also balance is not something you’ll find every day!

After tasting this dram all I can say is thank you Blair Athol bartender for hinting me towards this sherry cask. Don’t get me wrong, the bourbon cask is an absolute gem of a whisky. But this sherry cask from 1995 is otherworldly.

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