Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47.8% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 20 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 84
Early on in my career as a whisky enthusiast I made the wise decision of picking up a bottle of the Balvenie 21 year old Portwood and the 17 year old Sherry Oak.
What an amazing stroke of luck on both bottles because back then I didn’t know my peat from my tun. Luckily for me I ran into a well informed sales person who decided to hit me with these two. I have been a fan ever since.
I think they have a solid range which covers a nice spectrum of flavors. The 12 Double Wood and the 12 Triple Cask are nice for easy drinking. As are the 14 Golden Cask and the Caribbean Rum Cask. The 17 has both a Sherry Oak and Peated Cask version which I find very interesting. Then there’s the gorgeous 21 year old Portwood.
This is without mentioning the cult classic Tun 1401 and the new Tun 1509. And also a smattering of travel retail exclusives that keep popping up frequently.
One of the newer releases from this Speyside standard is the single cask 15 year old matured exclusively in European Sherry. I notice they don’t say cask but choose to use barrel instead. Don’t know why.
My sample is from bottle #84 from cask 610 and served at an alcohol strength of 47.8%
Nose: Sour tamarind. Really sour. Rum. Bananas. Tobacco. Sweet cigar leaf. Toffee. Butterscotch. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Chocolate. Dry fruits. Nuts. Dried raisins. Prunes. Cold cuts. Stale oak. I don’t the like the nose. It’s far too sour for me. The oak seems stale too. A case of Oloroso overpower.
Palate: Surprisingly better than the nose. Chocolate. Black pepper. Oloroso sherry. Dry fruits. Cinnamon. Fudge cake. Tobacco leaf. Dark toffee. The palate works better for me. Not so sour as I was expecting. Quite thick and syrupy.
Finish: Licorice. Oak. Chocolate. Brownies. Lingers.
This is, in my opinion, not up to Balvenie’s usual high standards. There might be other casks that have fared better but this one doesn’t really cut it for me. Especially the nose.
Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88
There’s something about entry level Speysiders that has started to piss me off a bit. Seems like there’s a formula everyone’s using to create literally the same whisky.
I mean I understand this is the flavor profile that most people like (and buy) but must they all feel and taste exactly the same?
Let’s put it in some refill bourbon barrels for a bit and then finish it off in some sherry to get that altogether familiar flavor.
Now don’t get me wrong. There’s no reason to fix something if it aint broke but it’s become a blur for me of late. They’re all starting to look and feel the same.
And the frustrating bit for me is that they’re all pretty decent. There’s really very little wrong with any of them. It’s just that I have a hard time telling them apart. Maybe a lot of you can but my palate’s not that good.
Anyway, enough rant.
This 12 year old is part of The Balvenie Travel Retail Triple Cask range. Which basically means they’ve used three different maturations. First some refill bourbon, then some first fill bourbon and finally some sherry.
Nose: Lots of honey vanilla on a floral note. Soft peaches with a hint of oaky spices. There’s something green in there as well. Quite fresh. Quite nice.
Palate: There’s the honey again but now with mild peppercorns and cinnamon. Touch of nuts. Dried fruits with a mild citrus overtone.
Finish: Medium with an unexpected late arrival of spices.
Remember the Stepford Wives? Reminds me of them. All manufactured to look and feel the same. But still pretty good looking.
Early on in my days as a malt enthusiast (read freak) I was always on the lookout for Jim Murrays’ 93+ point whiskies and this 21 year old port finished Balvenie was on top of my ‘must buy’ list. So imagine my utter delight when I discovered this at the Duty Free during one of my travels.
As expected I had no idea what I was drinking. Not only that, I had the audacity to write a three line review and post it for all and sundry to see. I praised it but had no inkling why I was praising it.
Today I know why.
Nose: Robust. Confident. As you would expect a 21 year old to be. A whisky, that is! The port finish comes through on the back of remarkably balanced cocoa beans and fruit cake wrapped in chewy toffee. Then there is the sweet beeswax complemented by gorgeous red apples and a teasing cinnamon spice. And grapes. Lots of grapes. Dark grapes.
Palate: Beautifully textured. I know it’s medium-bodied but the palate is sending thick syrupy signals to the brain. Must be all that cocoa, thick grapes and warm apple stew covered in salty nuts.
Finish: Long and seductive. The cinnamon fruitcake is back and renders you almost incapacitated.
This is truly an example of what real magic must feel like.
Sweet sweet custard notes come in to play on the nose with sufficient hints of honey. The palate is a warm tingly mix of apple stew with a dollop of sugar on top. The finish is surprisingly long for a Speyside this mild with nicely balanced sweet notes covered in pears.
While my general comments are positive overall this single malt is not up to Balvenie’s usual high standards.
Rating : 84
Complex nose. Slightly floral. Slightly fruity. Smooth delivery which leaves some spices at the back of the throat. Rich nutmeg, all spice, pine seeds. Mixed in chocolate and raisins. The rum casks play their role admirably without appearing too boisterous. Didn’t expect something so complex from something this young. A beautiful mix of dry fruits and flowers. A splash of water will open up and magnify all the flavors.
Rating : 91