Back to the highlands today as we look at two independently bottled Blair Athols, both 14 years old but with different cask finishes.
Blair Athol 14yo 2006/2021 North Star Spirits Mezcal Cask
This bottling was distilled 30th September 2006, it was matured in a refill bourbon barrel for just under thirteen years before being transferred to Mezcal cask for a fourteenth month finishing period. Just 72 bottles were released.
Coconut shavings, bananas drizzled with caramel and vanilla essence, but with a dry oakiness counterbalancing those sweet aromas. There's a toasty smell here, not peat or smoke, but something a little charred, and there's a hint of roasted peanuts too. You can get a hint of rubbing alcohol here, some nail polish remover combined with a some wet soil and leaves. Going back after a bit of time it's become more mineral and chalky in nature, with a slight picked vegetal note coming through too. Lots going on, but a bit weird in some ways.
Sweet custard on the forefront, followed by an incredibly astringent flavour, and more of that raw alcohol taste. It's a little rough, we're not going to lie. We're getting apples followed by pine resin, but the overall flavour profile is incredibly drying and chalky. There are some nice citrus notes here, along with some green olives and sprouting leaves. The mouthfeel is ok and the finish lasts a reasonable length, but we're struggling a bit with this one.
Nose (with water)
We're getting more dirt and soil here, it's like getting your nose right into the top soil of a plant pot. We're getting some tea leaves, some sweet oak and light cereal notes. It's slightly mellowed the rough alcohol aromas but they're still lingering in the background.
Palate (with water)
Soured grapes, grapefruit, burnt toast, light spice followed by strong alcohol and finishing with lemon juice. There's a breadiness here, like the crusts of a wholemeal loaf. The mouthfeel and finish stays pretty consistent to what they were pre-dilution.
We've not drank much mezcal in our lives, nor have we drank many mezcal finished whiskies, the last one was a Kilchoman we quite enjoyed, and we were keen to try more after that one, but after trying this we realise we may have been too hasty. The nose on this is pleasant enough, it's got some nice contrasting sweet and woody notes with some earthiness thrown in for good measure, but the palate is tough to swallow. There's prominent alcohol and astringency that we really don't find pleasurable, and we don't think we'd go back for another dram.
SMWS 68.51 Blair Athol 14yo
This was distilled on the 2nd of August 2006, after twelve years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, the whisky was transferred into a 1st fill Oloroso sherry hogshead for two years of additional maturation.
Initially we’re not getting a huge amount other than finding it very chocolate forward with some walnuts mixed into a chocolate mousse. Giving it air and there’s some tree bark, vanilla custard, a little caramel that’s been taken slightly too far, and a slight herbal note in the background. The alcohol is quite apparent on the nose, but melds in well with the other aromas. Going back we’re getting some moscavado sugar a slight sour/sweetness combo that we’re calling a milka strawberry yoghurt bar.
Similar to the nose we had to give this time and air to really get a lot out of it. There’s tangy apricot, red berries, and a touch of bourbon sweetness. It’s got a little spice but it marries well with a fruity sweetness to create something very pleasant. There’s a dry oak flavour too, menthol and rich raisins. The mouthfeel is nice and viscous, and the finish lingers for a good while.
Nose (with water)
With water there’s mango, orange, sugar syrup, and bitters.. it’s actually pretty close to an old fashioned cocktail. It’s a little more restrained, we’re getting a touch of candle wax and hot sand.
Palate (with water)
Some orangeade, brown sugar, caramelised white chocolate, sugar doughnut and a little oak bitterness. The mouthfeel retains its lusciousness and the finish still has a nice length with raisin and sultana richness.
We found it a little tough to get all the aromas and flavours from this we’ve previously got out of sherry finished whiskies. Well, at least the ones we were expecting, but this is still a good dram that’s very drinkable. We’d grab a bottle at the price.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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