Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, First Fill Sherry Butt, DL REF 9908, 477 bottles)

The Glenglassaugh I reviewed recently was a first on these pages, but so is this Blair Athol. Blair Athol puts more than 90% of its new make into Bourbon Barrels and/or Hogsheads, and most of those are used for the Bells Blended Whisky. Less than 10% of the new make winds up in Sherry Casks and eventually most of those are used for the 16yo Flora and Fauna expression. Official expressions of Blair Athol are scarce. A long time ago there were a 8yo and a 12yo, and more recently a version of Blair Athol found its way into the Rare Malts series (a 27yo with distillate from 1975), and in the Managers Choice series (a 13yo with distillate from 1995).

When visiting the stand of Douglas Laing last year at the London Whisky Show, Chris Birthday Boy Leggat, gave me a sample of this and told me he was very curious what I would think of it, so let’s have a look…

Blair Athol 20yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Sherry Butt, DL REF 9908, 477 bottles)Color: Golden nectar with the slightest red hue.

Nose: Malty and full. Dusty and sweet. Sweet wine. Hints of cookie dough and warm apple pie. Hard to detect the fruitiness through the dough and the pie (and the apparent sweetness). Funky (in a Bootsy Collins kind of way) with the occasional whiff of fresh air. Aroma’s here are from the low-end of the spectrum, heavy and sweet, as opposed to acidic and fresh citrus fruits. With some breathing the oak finally emerges.

Taste: Sweet with pie again, but lots more wood than the nose suggested. The wood gives it character and hardly any bitterness. Very creamy, more like clotted cream than plain vanilla. There is however a little strange hint of acidity that affects the balance a bit, this acidity continues into the finish. It is strong enough to get in between of the sweetness and the cookie dough and cream. If you ask me more a kind of acidity from the wood, than the Sherry. With extensive breathing more wood emerges, just as in the nose, as does the smallest hint of fresh cola. The balance picks up with breathing, so don’t be too quick drinking this. Salty lips.

I’m guessing from a Fino Sherry Butt (or maybe even Manzanilla, which also seems a bit salty). Blair Athol isn’t one of those distilleries with a huge following and almost never is truly great. This one is as good as Blair Athol can be. Nice.

Points: 85

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