This Highland single malt was distilled at Blair Athol Distillery in October 2000 and aged 12 years in a single 1st Fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead. Bottled at natural cask strength without chill filtration or artificial colouring.
Appearance: Amber, almost rose gold. A really oily film forms quickly and sticks to the glass, only distorted by the thick trails seeping down towards the surface. A few droplets also appear and sit above the swirl line
Nose: Caramel, oak, dried fruit, freshly drilled wood and molasses fill the nose first. There’s also a big helping of alcohol from that high abv.
The second sniff reveals the sweeter notes. Toffee, blackberry, plum and cinnamon swirl pastries. Buttered toast appears after a while too.
There may even be a faint element of pink grapefruit citrus, nothing which interferes with the less zesty notes, it’s ever so slightly bitter, just lingering very subtly in the background.
The nose has great depth and many aroma layers to explore. With a dash of water, the nose becomes more baking spice-forward and sweet pastry. The orange note on the palate also appears as an aroma.
Palate: A lovely velvety mouthfeel, filled with tingling fairly hot spice/chilli and orange peel.
The second sip still hits hard with the spice: hot aniseed, cinnamon and white pepper. The heat enters the realm of medium-hot chilli too.
The third sip allows the palate to slightly acclimatise to the spice and start to recognise the hidden and dominated sweet notes.
The buttered toast now has marmalade on it and the blackberries are dusted with icing sugar.
With a dash of water, the palate opens up and becomes more of a fruit bowl (albeit still dusted with black pepper). I think the spice would take some diluting to really tame, it’s properly maxed out on that front.
Finish: Long. The chilli tingle, white pepper and aniseed start to blend more with the blackberry and buttery orange marmalade as you reach the finish. The flavours last an age and reluctantly fade.
Overall: It’s a monster and I love it. Quite a challenging whisky, but with some time and perseverance it starts to come good and reveal its true potential. It’s got so many flavour combinations swirling around, that it would still be revealing new layers and tastes towards the end of a bottle, I’m sure.