Balmenach 30 Years Old 1979 – Berrys’ Own Selection (Berry Bros & Rudd)

56.3% ABV, £130 for 70cl

Score: 89/100

What they say:

Balmenach distillery can be found at Cromdale, one of the crossing points on the upper stretches of the river Spey. Akin to many Malt Whiskies, there is very little bottled as Single Malt, especially older examples such as this rare 30 year-old.

The nose is engaging with some classy fruity depth and ancient polished oak. Certain smokiness appears with a brazil nut note. The palate delivers some oily, creamy intensity with smoke seeping through the fruit-cake layers. The final flavours trail off slowly with a firm handshake

Property: Balmenach Distillery, Speyside

Balmenach distillery is nestled at the bottom of the Haughs of Cromdale in the Spey valley. It was in these hills on the last day of April 1690 that an army of Jacobite soldiers were ambushed by dragoon guards, as the Jacobite forces were ambushed during their sleep many were slain the remaining fled nearly naked, this defeat effectively ended the Jacobite rising in the Highlands.

The distillery was established in the early 1800 by the McGregor family and it changed hands in 1922, when it became part of a company that would become DCL. In 1993 UDV mothballed Balmenach, until 1998 when Inver House Distillers bought the distillery making it the company’s fifth and largest distillery.

The stillhouse comprises of three wash stills and three spirit stills capable producing over 2 million litres of whisky a year. The signature style is full-bodied, robust, herbal, savoury (ginger, oranges, pepper) with hints of smoke.

What I say:

After a brief hiatus reviewing various whisky-related beers and confectionaries thanks to the Christmas period I resumed my tour of Scottish Distillery drams with this rather special 30 year old Balmenach bottled by the specialist wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros & Rudd in London. Balmenach is another speyside distillery producing mostly spirit destined for blending. Even in its last few decades, official bottlings have been hard to find to outright rare, including the flora and fauna bottling produced during its ownership by United Distillers, though it has occasionally appeared as a ‘Deerstalker’ bottling on occasion during its ownership by Inver House. The distillery is now owned by the Thai company Pacific Spirits and in 2009 Caorunn small batch Scottish Gin production started in earnest at the site also (http://www.caorunngin.com/caorunn-gin/process/distillery/).

Colour:

Deep rich gold

Nose:

Estery, woody oak, blackberry, pine bark, sap and needles, earthy/woody dunnage warehouse and sweet cereal aromas

Taste:

Sugary, prickly pepper spice, sweet treacle, macadamia and brazil nuts, deep oaky woody character, rich sugar-like molasses and some herbal notes

Finish:

Medium/long length on the finish which is sweet, thin and full of woody oak

Would I buy it again:

This is actually a rather engaging dram with plenty of deep wood and rich sugary elements, hardly surprising after its 30 year maturation. This is an outstanding bottling from Berry Bros & Rudd. Incredibly drinkable even at cask strength and a snip at the cost considering its lengthy maturation time. I would like to see how younger expressions compare as the overriding flavours from this dram appear to derive from the oak wood of the cask in which it was matured.