“There’s no reason a whisky this good and this old should be this inexpensive.”
—David Othenin-Girard, KL SoCal Spirits Buyer
Almost never seen in the United States, Blair Athol is a rare treat for collectors of Scotland’s finest drams. The bottling featured here, a 23 Year Old that was brought up in sherry cask, counts among the best expressions we’ve ever encountered. Heady, expressive, and with a seemingly unending cascade of Amontillado spice, it is a pure delight from start to finish. Blair Athol has developed something of a cult following over the years, and based on the balanced power this 23 Year Old reveals, it’s all too easy to see why. Because of its scarcity, one might expect this scotch to cost twice the price, but that’s the beauty of our direct-import program—we are able to offer it at an unbeatable price. We urge you to scroll down and read our staff reviews, as they paint a picture of a Highland malt of the highest caliber. Previous casks of Blair Athol have sold out in no time, and we expect much the same of this magnificent expression.
The exceptional Blair Athol Distillery sits just outside the picturesque town of Pitlochry at the base of the great Cairngorm Mountains. This small stone distillery has provided KL with several of our most renowned single barrels, namely a few old refill casks from Signatory, which were dark refill sherry butts. This barrel showing up just a few years after those exquisite examples of this low-key distillery further proves that sherry and Blair Athol play in perfect harmony. Famous in the U.K. as the home of the well-regarded Bell’s Blend, it has no real no real presence in the States. Nonetheless, it’s become sought after partly due to our efforts and because more of our customers are heading over to Scotland. Since invariably a stop in the quaint little village just to the north of the distillery is recommended, every year more people coming home dreaming about it. Once you taste that flora and fauna expression, it must feel rather tragic to realize that no regular expression of this lovely malt is available in the U.S. So when this stupendous cask popped up, we knew we had to nab it. I’d happily sell this exceptional whisky, filled into a fresh sherry butt back in 1995, for $200. I absolutely think it’s worth that much. We crushed the 26 Year Old from Signatory (albeit slightly older and darker) at $180 a bottle years ago. While it might not be as unique as some of the year’s other offerings, it’s is easily the most lovable malt of the season and another insane value from OMC.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 14, 2018
The lovely Blair Athol distillery is the spiritual home of the Bell’s Blend, which gets a bad rap from some whisky geeks, but when we see the excellent distillery in the warehouse we take note. Very few things are more appealing to me than an extremely affordable Blair Athol charged from a sherry. One whiff and we knew we had to have this majestic barrel. The nose has a big note of Oloroso, but also some complex malty fruit in the background. With a bit of water, dark fruit compote, exotic spices, and a subtle, almost Amontillado-like savory quality, emerge. On the palate it’s wonderfully textured with big taffy notes and a woodsy herbal quality—although much cleaner after water than the Ben Nevis, it still has a bit of funk to start. This is a total no brainer—an ultra-balanced, but overtly sherried malt in what might be arguably its perfect state of maturation. You barely notice the high proof, but it does love a little dollop of spring water, which opens it up in the most impressive way. Those that love the balance between dark sherry tones and rich maltiness will want to load up on this while it’s still around. There’s no reason a whisky this good and this old should be this inexpensive.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 11, 2018
Once again we have Blair Athol on the shelves! It has been far too long and I’ve fielded too many customer requests from people hoping for a bottle of our previous casks to pop up. While a touch younger and nowhere near as dark in sherry color, this wonderful cask shows off all of the splendor of sherry-aged Blair Athol with more sophistication than our previous bottlings. The chocolate fudge and spice cake of the sherry butt is more deeply integrated and the nutty texture and earthy flavors of the malt shine through. Don’t let that gentle sounding description fool you. The nose is just as robust as the first fill sherry monsters of yesteryear, but the palate doesn’t attack you, it lulls you into a false sense of security instead. At nearly 60%, for all its grace, this malt still packs a wallop. With a water addition it softens (a little) and exposes more of a dried orange peel and caramelized candied almond profile. A big malt for those who want power in their glass. And all for a pittance in comparison to the pair of 1988s we’ve offered in the last couple of years.
William Beare | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 25, 2018
It’s a cold and blustery evening here in Redwood City as I take my first few sips of the Blair Athol 23. The days are getting shorter and the winds are picking up. But in a large, deep glass, just the nose on this feels like a space heater for my soul. There is a small handful of fire in each inhale, but such a seductive, sweet fire that you feel dared to keep breathing deeper. The palate is filled with sweet honeycomb wax—unbelievably textural with a healthy dose of orange zest and a nutty finish. Well worth the price tag, and way too easy to drink for your own good.
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 25, 2018
There’s big fruit on the nose with notes of syrupy brandy cherries coming in first, followed by orange zest, kumquat, and apricot. Nice bright caramel and rock candy scents come through next, then just a little earthiness and a whisper of smoke. The palate is initially dominated by salted caramels and stone fruit flavors, but then there’s a bold transition to cherries, spices, and some leather in a nicely long finish.
Jackson Lee | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 21, 2018
This cask offering from Blair Athol is unapologetic in the way it presents itself. When first poured into the glass, notes of iodine, peat, astringent, leather, and oak are apparent—stereotypical but then a honeyed apricot and Nilla wafers come in to soften those hardened players. On the palate that sweetness at the end of the nose comes through on the tip of your tongue, hitting you with sweet cashew brittle and green apple undertones. The finish is long and you get a little spice and heat on the end, while that sweetness keeps its promise to the end, drawing out notes of pencil shavings after it..
Anthony Russo | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2018
This is a highlight of what Scotland’s Highland region can achieve. This whisky typically goes into a bottling that does not reach the United States, so just the opportunity to taste it is incredibly special. The nose is wildly interesting, loaded with all types of fruits and spices. The palate definitely follows up nicely with a flavor I did not expect: a touch of malty sweetness that keeps the finish long. I am very excited about this release, especially at the price/cask strength ABV.