Balblair All-Vintage Single Malt Scotch Arrives on U.S. Shores With Fanfare

Getting a taste of Balblair 97 vintage

I can always use a lesson in single malt Scotch – it’s a chance to widen my experience and palate, and let’s face it: I’m partial to it. A few weeks ago, I tried Balblair – the distillery of which dates back to 1749 – for the first time. So did many other Americans since it just got introduced to the U.S. market. It was a privilege to be amongst the first to partake and celebrate. Incidentally, I met a few members from the Los Angeles Whiskey Society. Indeed, whiskey – or more specifically Highland Single Malt Scotch – brings us all together.

Balblair is a Highland Single Malt and the only that is all-vintage (older than 10 years). The 1991 ($129.99) and 1997 ($64.99) are the first two vintages available here, and needless to say – I thought the 1997 was very good but was very impressed by the 1991 vintage. Both have an ABV of 43% and are full-bodied. In the 1997, I experienced a rather spicy nose as well as a few citrus notes. The taste gave off much oak as well as spice – and some vanilla. The 1991, on the other hand, was a bit more sweet on the nose as well as taste with warmer notes overall than the 1997, even giving off the essence of toffee. Very delicious.

If I had occasion to give a generous gift to a seasoned whiskey drinker – I’d certainly pick up one of these bottles. Since it’s new to our market, your giftee will appreciate both your expertise and good taste. 😉 If you want to sip here in the city, try The Edison, Checkers and The Thirsty Crow (thanks to Maya of ShopEatSleep for that tip).

Further reading:
Loving Scotch Like Ron Burgundy – ShopEatSleep

Tasting the World’s Only Vintage Single Malt Scotch – Gourmet Pigs

Trying Balblair Highland Scotch – Tara Met Blog

The Balblair tasting was held at:

Edison Downtown
108 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-1585

Wed – Fri: 5 PM – 2 AM
Sat: 8 PM – 2 AM

The Thirsty Crow Opens Today in Silver Lake

Brandon Ristaino at the Russian ice ball machine

We seem to love animals here in Los Angeles. So much perhaps that we tend to project our own longings and qualities upon the poor creatures when anthropomorphizing animals on the internet naming our food and drink establishments. There’s a Hungry Cat, a Surly Goat and now – The Thirsty Crow.

1936 Jukebox - $0.05 per play, selection of 12 songs

As long as the drinks are solid and the space has character, I can get behind almost any name. Fortunately, The Thirsty Crow – a bourbon bar from Bobby Green (1933 Group: Bigfoot Lodge, Bigfoot West, The Little Cave, Saints & Sinners) – manages to do both. This is a far cry from Stinkers and skunk butts, mind you – and comprises more “hip” than “hipster” in this Silver Lake neighborhood with The Crow’s upscale, quality $12 cocktails. It may be a bar, but it’s now more La Mill (especially with their new liquor license) than Cha Cha Lounge, though PBR also is available here. The last time I saw an ice ball machine was not even in-house, but during the traveling Macallan presentation. Clientele with cocktails chilled with the rounded ice benefit from the surface area in their Old Fashioned glasses slowing its melt rate – upscale, indeed.


At the media preview, we could taste anything and everything from the menu, and I found myself especially impressed with their classics. I started off with a Mint Julep – made with Maker’s Mark – and it was quite good. Despite the presence of confectioner’s sugar, it wasn’t too sweet, had a good muddling of mint and was appropriately complimentary to the bourbon composing the drink. It was a good pour.

The Sazerac made by Don was also very good – a delicious, aromatic classic blend with a clean finish. Made with Jim Beam, Peychaud’s bitters, Grande Absinthe, a touch of sugar and flamed lemon peel. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I like any city that has popularized this (albeit originally cognac) cocktail.

The popular drink of the media night, however, seemed to be the bar’s namesake cocktail. Gin with ginger beer renditions may be prevalent all around town – but the Jim Beam Rye at the center of the Thirsty Crow (which Lindsay and Daniel ordered) made for good spice in combination with the ginger beer, bitters and citrus.

I love that there is a Manhattan section on the menu – and in turn loved their Black Manhattan. It was dark and delicious. I would caution against the Mole Manhattan, however, as Caroline had understandably ordered it because she had expected it to be influenced at least in part by the Mexican ingredient. Not quite – the drink was more chocolatey sweet than Mole Poblano.

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