Blair Athol 25yo 1988/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, Refill Sherry Butt #6918, 712 bottles)

Here is another Ultimate bottling I tried recently. Dutch outfit Van Wees are getting some pretty good bottles released recently and there is a buzz going on about this 25yo Blair Athol. Blair Athol isn’t a very popular distillery, so when something like this is “buzzin'” we can’t ignore it now can’t we? This is from a refill Sherry Butt number 6918. More casks from this series are bottled this year by Van Wees: 6922, 6927 and 6928. All reduced to 46% ABV. Meanwhile in Scotland…

In 2014 Andrew Symington is releasing 25yo Blair Athol’s from 1988 too. Signatory Vintage, his company, is releasing some pretty good Cask Strength Blair Atholls with the following cask numbers: 6914, 6919, 6920+6924 and 6925. Seems like some sort of gentleman’s agreement doesn’t it? Well nothing wrong with having some good friends. I’ve tried one of these and it was very good. Now let’s see how Blair Athol behaves when Van Wees add some water to it…

Blair Athol 25yo 1988/2014 (46%, The Ultimate, Refill Sherry Butt #6918, 712 bottles)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Intense Sherry nose, and I don’t mean Fino people. Floral and perfumy. Nice and laid back. Funky wood and also some sulphur. Hard candy powder. Toffee and black fruit. Blackcurrant and blueberries. Nice fruity sherried Whisky. Well balanced nose. Dry and aromatic and with some hints of soap. No sight of raisins or cloying sweetness in this dark-colored malt. Otherwise a typically dark sherried nose, with some acidic oaky notes.

Taste: Toffeed Sherry, yet it doesn’t seem sweet. It does have its Sherry-sweetness but that is pushed back by the dryness of the wood. The taste is quite dry (the wood again) but all seems to be in check. Not a very sweet and cloying malt. In the distance some notes of coal and elements of old malts. The dark fruits return in the finish, which makes for an excellent finish. Still it’s not over the top. It’s not overly woody, and the fact it’s not sweet makes for an easier drinkable Sherry malt.

This is a pretty funky Whisky, if you ask me. The funkiness is there when it’s freshly opened, but also when it’s freshly poured into a glass. I hope you don’t drink your Whisky from the bottle now don’t you? This tells us the Whisky needs some air, and time, to breathe. The air gives it a more elegant feel, but also more balance, the aroma’s tend to fit better to each other. I must say, al be it from a sister cask, I like this one, way better at higher strength, but this reduced one is also pretty good by itself, uncompared. Recommended!

Points: 86

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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