A heavily-peated main-lander, and one you're probably not familiar with. But should you be? Let's find out.
Old Ballantruan is made by Tomintoul distillery, in Speyside. I've reviewed a peated Tomintoul previously, the aptly named 'Peaty Tang', which I did find interesting, but it fell over on a couple of points. Mainly that it was bottled at 40%, it was young and had no age statement, and it was (and still is) chill filtered.
This Old Ballantruan 10 yo has righted all of those wrongs. Aside from the age statement, it's non-chill filtered, and it's bottled at 50%. So this one promises to be a big improvement over it's little brother. It's also quite well-priced, at $110 here from Nippy Sweetie Whiskies, who supplied the sample for this review. There's only a $30 difference between this one and the 'peaty tang', so I'm thinking this will be the peated Tomintoul to go for. There is also a Non-Age Statement (NAS) bottling, but that one seems to be hard to find in Australia, and I think we're happy to have the age statement!
At this point, you may be asking why it isn't simply called Tomintoul peated. And the answer is that the distillery produce the whisky under contract, for the 'Old Ballantruan Whisky Company'. Which is why there's no mention of Tomintoul on the packaging, and no mention of Old Ballantruan on the distillery's website. Not that it matters to the whisky itself, just an interesting factoid really.
Produced by Tomintoul distillery. Heavily-peated, non-chill filtered, natural colour.
Nose: Nice! Peaty & sweet. Peppercorns, fresh salted caramel. Slightly sour vegetal peat, a little grassy & herbal. Sweet barley, some boiled sweets, and a little spirit-y bite.
Texture: Medium weight, a little heat.
Taste: Peaty & ashy, vegetal peat again, and a good amount of it, but without the slight sourness from the nose. A good dab of chilli & black pepper, and a little rotting root vegetables. Which I also got in the Tomintoul 'Peaty Tang', albeit far less prominent in this one. And it's more pleasant a flavour than it sounds!
Finish: Short-medium length, warming. Chilli, a little ash, dried herbs, a little salt, and a hint of floral soap. Soft earthy, sweet peat 'til the end.
Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Notes: Very nice, easy drinking and nicely peated. Old Ballantruan is certainly far superior to the peaty Tomintoul, like I expected. Although it's hard to judge the latter definitely when it's bottled at 40% and chill filtered, and this one makes up for those shortcomings. There's a flash of Ledaig 10 yo in the Old Ballantruan I think, albeit without the coastal influence. And that's pretty high praise indeed.
This 10 yo peated mainlander has changed my opinion of peated Tomintoul. I'm yet to try any of their un-peated whisky, but this one seems to really show what they can do without chill filtration, with a decent strength, and a bit of age. Unfortunately it seems to have been the idea of an external party, but the distillery should follow suit with it's official bottlings. Whoever the Old Ballantruan Whisky Company are, I say they have the right idea!
Likewise, Nippy Sweetie Whiskies for bringing this one in (and thanks for the sample!). Well worth checking out, especially for my fellow peat lovers. Good stuff.