Whisky Review – The Exclusive Malts Balmenach 2003, 13 Years Old


Based upon some interwebz-based research, it appears as though there has been very little Balmenach Single Malt Scotch Whisky released by the actual distillery. Sure, I was able to track down a 12 Year Old expression that’s for sale on The Whisky Exchange, but that bottle costs $479.29 for a 70cl bottle (plus $56.24 for shipping and handling!). As far as I’m concerned, once a bottle gets into that price range, it may as well not even exist because I’m certainly not buying it. So why are there no distillery direct bottlings of Balmenach available to whisky lovers such as ourselves? Perhaps this wee bit of Balmenach history, which was taken directly from the website, will shed some light on its scarcity:

  • 1824: James McGregor obtains a legal license for his previously illicit operation, Balmenach distillery.
  • 1922: The McGregor family sell the distillery to a consortium that becomes part of DCL in 1925.
  • 1993: The distillery is mothballed as Scotch demand diminishes.
  • 1997: The distillery is bought by Inver House Distillers.
  • 1998: Production recommences.
  • According to The Whisky Exchange website, “The vast majority of Balmenach’s sherry-matured malt goes to blends, including Johnnie Walker. Diageo had released some Balmenach as part of their Flora & Fauna range, but this is obviously now discontinued and is becoming more and more scarce. There have been occasional independent bottling.”

Given that most Balmenach is sold to Scottish whisky blenders, it’s no wonder that this stuff is hard to find. I guess we should thank independent bottles like the Creative Whisky Company who are always on the lookout for whiskies from little known distilleries such as Balmenach. If it weren’t for them, we’d never get to taste stuff like this. Now that you know a bit about the Balmenach Distillery, let’s move on to my review.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t given much information about this particular bottling, but I was able to find this on The Whisky Shop website:

Distilled in 2003, matured in an ex-bourbon barrel for 13 years, and bottled at 57.8%. This single malt, rarely seen in the US, is brought to you by award winning independent bottler, the Creative Whisky Co., Ltd..

Here’s what I thought of it…the-exclusive-malts-balmenach-2003-13-yo-sample

  • Appearance: Pale yellow, aka liquid gold in a glass!
  • Aroma: Good bit of alcohol vapors at first. Gets quite fruity once it opens up. Green apple and/or pear. Nougat. Some honey. Menthol and Eucalyptus.
  • Taste: WOW! I wasn’t expecting it to be so hot right out of the gate. Very peppery with a lightly sweet backbone at the start, with all of the intensity concentrated on the tip of my tongue. The fruitiness shows up along with some buttercream icing sweetness at mid-palate, but the heat never lets up. Gets really dry and a little tart at the finish with some herbal notes coming through at the very end.
  • ABV: 57.8%

The Verdict

I love it when there’s a bit of bait and switch going on in a whisky. The nose tricked me into thinking this would be an easy going whisky. What I got was a surprisingly intense and flavorful drinking experience, and I enjoyed EVERY minute of it.


Many thanks to our friends at Impex Beverages for sending us this sample!

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