Balblair 2002 Cask Strength (hand bottled at Balblair Distillery from Cask # 1440 on 13 March 2017)

Color: a rich golden yellow in the bottle, but somewhat paler once poured in the glass.

Nose: A very light floral aroma with a teeny hint of citrus zest; adding a few drops of water brings forward a teasing hint of toffee like sweetness that was enough to make me salivate.

Taste:  before adding water, light on the tongue with hints of toffee up front, followed by a layer of spice reminiscent of fresh licorice that lingers gently on the tongue. Adding about 5 measured drops of water brought forward a gentle honey flavor while the spice remained licorice, but with a gentle, fruitiness (almost like a honeydew melon). The honey-like sweetness soon yielded to the spice, but didn’t abate fully. The fruity sweetness and spice lingered gently on my tongue, much moreso after adding the water than without, and the finish was almost creamy.

This is a deceptively smooth whisky and there was no burn on the nose or the tongue notwithstanding that this expression is cask strength and comes in at a rather strong 54.5% ABV. I have been a fan of this small, 2 still distillery, for several years now because I appreciate the natural coloring, non-chill filtering, the propensity to use bourbon casks, the generally longer aging of the whiskies and that they always bottle with a vintage year. The expressions I have tasted all bring to mind a man’s whisky: not too sweet, not too fancy, just a hardy, solid whisky that leaves one feeling happy, warm and satisfied. This is similar to my thoughts about the Mortlach expressions I’ve been fortunate to sample. The other Balblair expression that came home with me in March 2017 is the 1999 (2nd Release) bottled in 2016, 46% ABV, which I liked better than the first release which was available for travel retail.