The Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice Balblair 1997 23 Year Old, 56.2%, explodes out of my glass like a champion 3 year old horse—juiced on steroids, amphetamines, rocket fuel—that was startled by air horns blasted by impish barely pubescent adolescents larking around. I poured it into my glass, set my glass down, and from across the Malt Table, it announced its presence like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. This whisky will not be ignored! The actual nose, rather than the metaphoric impression of the aromas leaping out of the glass, center on unsalted roast almonds, dew-bespecked cherry blossom petals spiraling to the mossy ground, winking in and out of shafts of sunlight, and a pineapple, timorously approaching ripeness. I got also ocean sponges befuddled in tide pools and loofahs rinsed in de-mineralized water. This whisky contains multitudes, including hints of sticky toffee pudding after some time.
The mouth dramatically brings home the power of this expression like the way controlled pyrotechnics send thumping sonic waves through your body, causing your nervous system to vibrate like a Slinky™ on a weather vane in a tornado. I don’t think “power” is a well-defined or even much-used descriptor of whisky; what I mean is that there is a punch, separate from the alcohol, that is an organizing core for everything else, an evident quiddity yet one that partakes not itself of flavors or aromas. A power-full whisky leaves a looooonnnnnggg impression on the mouth more than the tongue. This Balblair fizzes like Pop Rocks™ sinking through olive oil into water that releases the carbon dioxide. It’s epic, without being awesome—memorable without an attached value judgement. We got orris, Doris Day, and Morris the Cat: hot and bitter, adorable and clean cut, grumpy and iconic. Again, this whisky contains multitudes. (Note: Obviously we tried adding water and the G&M Balblair 23yo defeated the water! If anything, rather than opening up the whisky, the water contracted it, accentuated a tannin-y formerly undetectable thread and made it as jaggedy as a fractal-edged shuriken.)
The finish was long and mineralized, like a stalactite stabbing at you from a dour, spiteful ceiling. John got a fresh sea cucumber, because of course he did.
[John: Bill! That was you who got the sea cucumber!]
I plead the 5th…of whisky! We also got candied grapefruit zest with a high, bitter, citrus note. As time ticked away, I saw flashbacks from my former days as the whisky burned holes in the nape of my neck. (Good thing I’m rocking a mullet these days!) There is cream, but it’s not creamy. It’s suggestive that cream exists in this world, that cream is lovely, but that there is no cream for you today.
On the scale of ecstatic poets–
The Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice 1997 Balblair 23 Year Old, 56.2%, is Walt Whitman— Whitman’s poetry contains multitudes, and Whitman famously asked rhetorically if he contained multitudes. Reader, he answered in the affirmative! All my grapplings and scrabblings at ways of scribbling about the uniqueness of this expression might lead one to think that I didn’t like it. Au contraire, I love it, for I, too, contain multitudes..
Our thanks to Max for helping Stephen get a hold of this bottle!