Blair Athol is one of Scotland's oldest single malt whisky distilleries, having originally started production in 1798. The distillery is located in the central Highlands, close to the town of Pitlochry. Blair Athol is next to Blair Castle, which is home to the 11th Duke of Athol and is the most visited private residence in the UK. The Duke has his own army called the Athol Highlanders and they are the last remaining private army in Europe!
Blair Athol is currently owned by drinks giant Diageo and they use much of the two million litres of whisky produced there every year for blending in their popular Bell's and Johnnie Walker ranges. Only one single malt, a 12 years old in Diageo's Flora & Fauna range, is released from the distillery with a decent amount of ages and expressions available through a number of the independent bottling companies. This whisky is bottled by the Glasgow based independent bottling company Douglas Laing & Co. and forms part of their 'Provenance' range.
The colour of this whisky is a dark orange brown (imagine caramel) and the nose is full of fruity notes (imagine dried fruits like sultanas, raisins and candied peel). These come from the sherry cask maturation that the whisky has had. On the palate, these dried fruit characteristics are prominent but they feel more juicy and succulent. It feels quite syrupy and has a sugary caramel-like sweetness with some spices (think of cinnamon especially) and a citrus style tang coming through (imagine lemon zest). The combination of flavours is reminiscent of a good fruit cake or Christmas cake and this is the classic flavour profile of a sherry cask matured whisky. The finish is much drier and more woody than expected with an interesting characteristic that can only be described as cloves. The fruitiness is still there but it gets overtaken by the woody oakiness, which was slightly disappointing.
A decent example of a sherry cask matured whisky that would suit people who have a sweet tooth and prefer their whiskies rich and fruity. This will only be found in specialist whisky retailers and should cost around £40 a bottle.