Balblair 97 whisky review

Balblair 97 whisky is delicate and “Bryan Ferry smooth”

What was going on in the world in 1997? A  book about a  schoolboy  wizard hit our bookshelves, Pierce Brosnan enjoyed his second outing as a Martini-shaking secret agent, while Tony Blair became Prime Minister for the first time.

Oh, and a Scotch  whisky  was laid down in Bourbon casks.

Sixteen years on and the eighth Harry Potter Hollywood blockbuster is fading from   memory, Daniel Craig has enjoyed three outings as James Bond – and Blair has been and gone.

But the 1997 vintage of Balblair has just matured.  Balblair whiskies are unusual in that they are named after the year they were made.
When it comes to whisky I know that Irish whiskey has an ‘e’ in it. Scotch doesn’t. I know I enjoy whisky, with or without the ‘e’.  I even raised a glass to a Scot who won Wimbledon. Did you hear of him?

But when it came to an expert view,  I asked  a whisky  buff colleague  for his thoughts.

Dave – for that is his name –  says it  is “a lovely delicate spirit, aged perfectly, combining freshness with depth and complexity.  At around £55 a bottle it doesn’t tick every box. The colour is a little underwhelming.

 “Distillery notes claim a ‘deep golden amber’ – but in reality it’s more a pale, washed out yellow.
Balblair 97 whisky review
Balblair 97 whisky
“But the  tropical fruits, hints of honey, vanilla and butterscotch  which the label promises are all evident, as is a hint of Love Hearts for those who spent too much time in sweet shops as a kid. It has tingly spiciness, but is  Bryan Ferry smooth.
“Bourbon casks help import fudge, honey, spices, sultanas and hard toffee onto the palate – and there’s also a lovely, long creamy finish.”
I don’t think you need me any more.

In my glass this week …

A couple of  lovely summer whites from The Wine Society (

The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) and  Exhibition Albariño (£12.95) are on offer until August 11 (£5.50 and £11.50 respectively).

The vinho verde splashes into the glass  like sea foamily glancing onto a pebble. The bubbles frizzle, frazzle and disappear. On the nose there’s refreshing pears apples and … well,   garden daisies? Spritzy summer sipping.

The albariño was made for the  Society  by  Pazo de Señorans, one of the  top estates in  Rías Baixas.  It  has a classic  peachy, rich mouth feel. I love albariño and this has the classy balance of  an on-form Rafael Nadal serving an ace. From a tightrope.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 13, 2013

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