Today we have a Scotch Single Malt whisky from the Balmenach Distillery. This is a Vintage 1988, 25 year-old single cask whisky bottled by Signatory Vintage for Binny’s Beverage Depot (Chicago). Distilled 25.10.1988 and bottled 04.08.2014, this whisky was matured in hogshead Cask No 2899 and we have bottle no. 82 of 177. Although the label doesn’t specifically state anything, as a hogshead cask, and with an outturn of only 177 bottles, this is almost certainly an ex-bourbon cask matured whisky. The label states that this is Natural Colour, but makes no reference to whether or not it was chill-filtered.
Balmenach is a bit of a rare bird. Balmenach is a name you don’t see often and a whisky that you don’t regularly find on the shelves of your local specialty retailer as official releases are few and far between because the vast majority of the whisky produced at the distillery is destined for the range of Hankey Bannister blended whiskies. The only official release was a 12 year-old for the Flora & Fauna Series that came out in 1992 and is now quite difficult to find. So if you want to try a Balmenach, chances are that you will need to find an independent release such as we have here.
Despite its relative anonymity, the Balmenach Distillery has been around since 1824 when it was established by James MacGregor – a former illicit farm distiller – following the passage of the 1823 Excise Act. The distillery remained in the MacGregor family until 1922 when it was sold to a group of whisky blenders (McDonald Green, Peter Dawson and James Watson) who subsequently became part of Distillers Company Ltd (DCL).
In 1998 Balmenach was purchased by Inver House Distillers Limited, a privately owned distiller whose other distilleries include Speyburn, Knockdhu, Balblair and Old Pulteney. Inver House was then acquired by Pacific Spirits, a Thai-based drinks company for £56 million. Pacific Spirits was then acquired by International Beverage Holdings in 2006. The distillery is presently running 7 days a week and produces approximately 2.8 million liters of whisky per year.
I was fortunate to be an invited guest of the Single Malt Whisky Society of Dallas where we were treated to a lineup of great whiskies, including this one.
Single Malt Whisky Review: Balmenach 25 yo, Signatory Vintage
Color: Light Amber
Nose: Softly fruity, liquorice, and a hint of earthy peat. Delicately herbal. Stone fruits and red apples. Subtle notes of dried fruits and white raisins, butter cream, saltwater taffy, and something slightly reminiscent of musty old books. Water brings out more of the sweeter notes; vanilla and the butter cream, hay, a touch of something flinty or mineral.
Taste: As with the nose, this one starts with a softly sweet and fruity arrival. Slightly citric. Neat, with the high abv, there is a bit of alcohol heat, but a few drops of water softens the arrival and the palate becomes oilier. A nice citric splash of lemon juice, more malty notes. There is a soft grassiness, a mineral note, herbal, and sweet malt, with that same, ever-so-delicate touch of peat just hanging on the periphery.
Finish: sweet stone fruits, lemon-vanilla, malty. Good length and depth.
Overall: I really enjoyed this one, although there were varying opinions about it at the tasting – everyone liked it, but the varying opinions were more a result of the relative comparison to others we tried.
This Balmenach 25 yo is quite an interesting malt and one that requires some attention to get all it offers. This is a somewhat atypical Speysider; it is not particularly floral nor is it overwhelmingly fruity. This one has a grassiness and a nice citrusy aspect to go along with the fruitiness that keeps you guessing. At first it is rather austere and shy and really needs a few drops of water and some time to shine, but your patience is rewarded as this one develops and then shows a very nice complexity and depth of flavors with a beautiful finish.
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 25 year-old (Distilled 1988, Bottled 2014)
Availability: Binny’s (Chicago)
Sample Source: Single Malt Whisky Society, Dallas
Additional Sources: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmenach_distillery, www.maltmadness.com, www.whiskyforeveryone.com, Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.