Whisky Advocate

Review: Edradour “Ballechin (#4), 46%, $100

January 27th, 2010

Edradour “Ballechin (#4)”, 46%, $100
I first wrote about this whisky here last fall. It’s the fourth release of peated Edradour single malt Scotch whisky. This time, it’s aged in Oloroso sherry casks. (6,000 bottles released, but only 900 to the U.S.). There’s a lot going on in this whisky. Yeah, it’s still a little on the young side, but what it lacks in maturity is compensated by a dynamic youthful complexity. A distinctive whisky, with coal tar, damp kiln smoke, caramelized fruit, smoked almond, walnut, licorice stick and maple-cured bacon. Youthful, sweet, smoky, lingering finish. I’m looking forward to future releases.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

33 Responses to “Review: Edradour “Ballechin (#4), 46%, $100”

  1. Whisky Party says:

    I agree. It’s an interesting dram – particularly for peat freaks. $100 is a good price. It’s $125 here in Brooklyn.

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    I’m was really very happy with the second Ballechin release, but I would’ve been a lot happier with it sans the 109$ price tag– If they’d put it in the 50-70$ range, I’d probably be on my third bottle by now. As it is forget it.

    I know that 100$+, <6 years, peat monsters have basically become
    part of premium single malt orthodoxy. I think it's dumb, but beyond that I wonder why some company isn't putting out a decent young peat monster for a reasonable low price. It could be done. Everyones looking to make more money with higher price tags, but in this case I think that there's a niche for a reasonably priced product, which consumers would embrace over some of the more hyped stuff.

  3. Alex says:

    Red,

    I concur that the price for many of the grails of the peat lover, Port Ellen, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Port Charlotte, have gotten a bit out of whack, but there do seem to be decent peat monsters of value. Compass Box’s Peat Monster and the Bruichladdich Peat aren’t too bad in the scheme of things, along with Smokehead, and one of the best bargains, albeit as a blend, is Black Bottle. I recently picked up the Longrow CV too – have you tried it yet?

    • Ernest says:

      I was just mulling over a purchase of the Longrow CV earlier this week. I’d be curious about your thoughts as to how it compares to some of the moderately-priced Islay malts. Are there any left? I noticed that Binny’s is selling as an exlusive a nine year-old Caol Ila aged in a Edradour Ballechin cask. Anyone try it?

      • Alex says:

        Scotch aged in a cask previously holding scotch – novel. Anyone remember the Balvenie Islay cask?

    • Whisky Party says:

      Hmmmm……I’m a big fan of smoky Islays, but Peat Monster and Black Bottle just aren’t good substitutes in my book.

      For my money, you can get Ardbeg 10 year in NYC for $47 – that’s a good deal and pretty much my go-to bottle.

      • Louis says:

        Binny’s still has the Uigeadail for $80. Definitely a best buy in the peat monster category. I love to dring the 10 and the Uigeadail side by side.

      • Alex says:

        Whisky Party,

        On the Black Bottle I went for the 10 yo (now discontinued) that I used to find for $30 – the 10 at $47 is a good deal and always a favorite. I’d agree on Peat Monster for my personal tastes but it can be found as a bargain at times – the Reserve I did like a bit more. While never a huge fan of the Bowmore Legend, I hear the new Tempest, not in US yet I believe, is quite good and reasonably priced – hope to see it here soon.

        • Whisky Party says:

          Yes, I’ll caveat my dislike of Black Bottle in two ways. First, I’ve only had the no age statement version. The 10 was never available in my area (at least not when I was actively looking for it).

          Second, I think the NAS Black Bottle is a fine whisky, just not peaty enough for me in terms of being a solid, cheap substitute for a Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Ardbeg or Lagavulin.

          Bunnahabhain is the base single malt in it, and that’s just not to my taste. Perfectly good whisky though if that’s the style you are interested in. It’s all a matter of degrees.

        • Quentin says:

          I’ve corresponded with Bowmore and with Skyy (their importing partners) about the 10 year old Tempest. They do not have plans to export it to the US this time around, but may consider it for future bottlings of Tempest.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Right, right. None of the ones you mention are “too bad in the scheme of things” at all. In fact, the Peat Monster Reserve is an incredible whisky and a great deal if you can find some.

      But, my idea is for something around the peating level of octomore or supernova, but with a price a little more in line with what it actually costs to produce 5 year old whisky– how about a true, absurd young peat monster, in the contemporary style for 50-70$? There’s a growing thirst for that kind of profile and if someone could provide it at a better price I’ll bet lot’s of the people who are spending a load for the overmarketed stuff would make it their bottle of choice.

      • Alex says:

        I hear you Red…paying $200 plus or minus for 5 year old whisky is tough. I would be surprised if more expressions with high phenols/lower cost did’nt eventually surface but with the current premiumisation trend, it may be some time…

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Yep Alex, “the current premiumization trend” is a killer… But who knows, let me make this more concrete. Why doesn’t Tobermory, for instance, a relatively low profile distillery just do as I suggest. It doesn’t have the star power to just jump on the band wagon and successfully market a young price-monster whisky. But I’ll bet if they put out a 5yo with huge peat at reasnoble price a lot of folks would look their way. Their are many other distilleries in similar positions.

          • Alex says:

            Hi Red,

            Yes Tobermory could do that, as they already produce the Ledaig, and now Bunnahabhain is producing peated malt under the rubric Toiteach and all are owned by Burn Stewart. Personally I am a big fan of Bruichladdich and was disappointed that the Octomore and Port Charlotte products were at such a premium but sometimes I can find the 3D3 still for ok $.

  4. Mark says:

    Why not Finlaggan Old Reserve? It’s not a monster, I guess, but for under $30 I find it surprisingly good, and since learning of it we haven’t been without an open bottle at home.

    It’s no Ardbeg 10, but nothing else is either and it’s good Islay for $20 less.

    John, have you written about Finlaggan and I’ve just missed it? Do you know the secret source?

  5. Ernest says:

    Don’t know the source but the Finlaggen is a Trader Joe’s product and unfortunately they don’t have a liquor license here in CT. Ardbeg 10 is a good eal right now.

    • Whisky Party says:

      Ernest, if you ever make it down to NYC, you can stock up on it at Warehouse Wine and Spirit (no website).

      Not to hijack the thread, but Whisky Party has written tasting notes on Finlaggen, as well as an item on its availability. My coblogger can no longer find it at Trader Joe’s in San Francisco.

      http://whiskyparty.net/?tag=finlaggan-old-reserve

    • Mark says:

      I buy it at Binny’s and Trader Joe’s employees I’ve asked about it in Chicago know nothing of it. So, I’m not sure it’s a “Trader Joe’s” product.

      I think it’s an good everyday Islay, especially for the price but not only for the price. I’d like to know whence it comes. A prominent Diageo rep (“Master of Whisky”) told me categorically that it is not from one of theirs. I don’t know.

  6. Ernest says:

    Interesting. I vaguely recall reading a review of it in a blog under the auspices of a “40 for under $40″ that mentioned it as a Trader Joe’s product but if it isn’t that’s certainly good news for me. WhiskyParty: thanks for the heads up. I live in New Haven and train into the City several times a month. Where is Warehouse Wines and Spirits loacted? Cheers,
    Ernest

    • Whisky Party says:

      Ernest – Whisky Party is the blog you read that on. We have a regular series called “40 Under $40.” So far we’ve reviewed 15 whiskies in that series including Finlaggan Old Reserve.

      My coblogger, who wrote the piece, bought his bottle at Trader Joes – which is the only place he’s ever seen it in California. But he didn’t mean to imply that it was a Trading Joe’s bottling.

    • Whisky Party says:

      Oh, and Warehouse is located on Broadway and Astor Pl. Take the 6 train from Grand Central and walk West to Broadway.

      • Ernest says:

        Thanks again WhiskParty. I know exactly where that store is; next to the now defunct Tower Records and the old Astor Wines. Cheers,
        Ernest

  7. Glad to see your review on this one, John. Thanks. I agree that “there’s a lot going on” here. I expected the 50ppm phenol to dominate, but it’s subtle. I expected the sherry to be a powerhouse, but it isn’t. Complexity is this one’s strong suit. A pleasure after a wood-fire grilled steak.

    For my palate it even beats a few other good ones that haven’t come up here: Ardmore Traditional, Ledaig 10, which are both still reasonably priced.

    • Mark says:

      Two-bit Cowboy, thanks for getting the thread back to the Edradour (not, I hope, that the drift was bad). I have a soft spot for Edradour because of their size and interesting experimentation. So, I likely would have made a point of trying this asap anyway. That you ranked it above Ardmore Trad and Ledaig 10 is further motivation. I like that Highland peat. (Do they use local peat for the Ledaig?)

      • I should have called it Ledaig Traditional Cask (quarter casks, like Laphroaig). Can’t find anything that attributes the source of Ledaig’s peat to Mull. Somewhere along the line I learned that Ledaig casks are sent to the Deanston distillery in the souther Highlands to age then back to Mull for bottling. Can’t find that source right now so not sure that’s still true. Maybe somebody on this site that’s closer to the source could clarify some of this for us all.

        • Alex says:

          I believe they source malt from Port Ellen and primarily age off island but some casks are now ageing on premise to see if the spirit exhibits a different character over time. Think it was mentioned in Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010. Also, the process water has a peaty character I hear.

      • MrTH says:

        I don’t believe Tobermory has malting facilities, so they must buy malt in from the mainland somewhere. I’m sure the commercial maltsters use whatever source of peat is handy.

  8. Ernest says:

    I know the Ardmore Traditional Cask is considered average in many whisky circles but I enjoy its softness and contrast to Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the latter three much more but not having tried any Ardmore aside from this one I have to admit I like it quite a bit. That said I can’t wait to try this new Edradour.

  9. I love when a single malt has that much going on John. In terms of value for a peated whisky, single or blended, I love the Black Bottle 10 yr. The Smokehead is another great value. I have only had theirs is a Signatory bottle that I thought was OK, but it wasn’t peated, so I would be very interested in trying it.

  10. [...] also has some great tasting notes on the Edradour Ballechin #4, which we got to sample [...]

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