Review: Balblair 12 G&M Discovery (43%)

Remember when you first started drinking whisky? Great, wasn’t it? Low expectations, wide-eyed and full of wonder. Each new bottle signalled the beginning of a new adventure. Your choice of restaurant was mainly dictated by the bar menu and you devoured literature at a rate not experienced since that time you discovered that copy of Razzle in the woods. It’s all shit now though, isn’t it?

You know better now, don’t you? You’re wise to the chicanery, immune to malversation and can write a dissertation on the law of diminishing returns. Familiarity has flat-out refused to don a figurative contraceptive and now you’re left babysitting its dreadful offspring.

Or perhaps not. Maybe you’re still a fresh-faced enthusiast. A sponge, eager to soak up every drop of knowledge, immerse yourself in hackneyed tartannery and osmotically acquire the grizzled mystique of a whisky expert. Begone. There’s no place for you here, child.

Ignore my bitterness. It’s the bastard spawn of ennui and envy. When it comes to whisky, I’ve taken on more than I could ever find useful. I have saturated myself both mentally and physically and I wish I could go back. I should have paced myself. I do this with everything. All there is left to try is bourbon and incest, and there’s no way I’m indulging in anything that originated in Kentucky.

Today, in a last-ditch attempt to coax flames from the fading embers of my soul, I turn to Gordon & MacPhail’s Discovery range. Admittedly, this is like trying to bring a bacon sandwich back to life with a 9v battery, but let’s continue. Designed to give new whisky drinkers an introduction to their *wince* portfolio, they fall into three categories; smoky, sherry and bourbon. This is the 12 year old Balblair from American oak bourbon casks, bottled at 43%. Joy.

Fun Facts*
  • Balblair is located in Ross-shire, home to Easter Ross, Wester Ross, Ross County FC, Jonathan Ross and Phoebe from Friends.
  • The distillery was the backdrop to the infamous ‘chafed bollocks’ camping scene in the movie ‘The Angel’s Share’. Those sheep are dead now. Everything you love dies.
  • Seriously. All dead.

NoseComes across as standard bourbon-cask Speyside. Lemons, apples, American hops (I’ve been to a brewery, you know), er… bit of rhubarb. There’s malt there too. Like rhubarb crumble but some animal has replaced the crumble with Weetabix.
PalateThe usual suspects here. Apples and pears. Lemon rind. Perhaps some icing sugar. Some salt too. Honey? No, not honey. Some kind of bready sweetness. Farley’s rusks? Not quite. Ugh. Annoying.
FinishPretty decent, as it happens. Reasonable length, a little peppery. Drying without being bitter or astringent. A lot of these types fall apart by this stage. This one stays the course.
ThoughtsThe bourbon cask orchard fest isn’t my go-to style, I have to be honest. The likes of Glen Grant 10 and Glenfiddich 12 don’t do a lot for me but this seems to take the strengths of both, resulting in a decent showing.

Not the pushover you might expect. Dare I say, even a little challenging. It’s a long way short of saving me from spiralling into depression and Bluegrass, but there’s enough depth and quality here to keep things interesting.

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