Here’s an odd little Balvenie. Much more ‘naked’ than what we typically see from this Speyside juggernaut of a distillery. This is kinda like peaking behind the curtain and seeing what’s really at the heart of it all…a Wizard Of Oz sorta deal, if you will.
Balvenie generally typifies almost all that bores me in the big distilleries. Whiskies of low strength, forced color and generic profiles. Credit where credit is due, however, Balvenie have been upping the ante in recent years with a couple of rather tasty 17 year olds of various cask finishes or maturations; not to mention the near-universally lauded Tun 1401 series. Sadly I’ve yet to try the latter, but if the fates are kind we’ll get there eventually.
Balvenie is most often characterized by a rather hefty sherry influence (or occasionally some rum finishing…or Port…or Madeira…). This 12 y.o. Single Barrel, affording an opportunity to see what the whisky was like under the influence of nothing more than a first fill bourbon barrel, was irresistable to the curious whisky nerd in me. Fortunately, there was more than sated curiosity that came of drinking this one. It’s actually a very decent dram. I think I prefer this to any of the other young Balvenie I’ve tried to date.
I should note: The Single Barrel range is a series of releases, wherein each cask yields around 300 bottles. And while it may be single cask, it is not cask strength. All of the releases in this series are hitting the shelves at 47.8%. Hmmmm. Wonder what the rationale is for that particular bottling strength. No complaints here. We like it just fine that way.
Nose: Floral notes. A lot of vanilla, as I’d sort of expected. Some licorice. Play dough. A little bit of pink bubblegum (bazooka joe?). Almond-heavy Indian sweets. A light dusting of cinnamon. A bit of lemon and some barley sugar notes carry through. Sweet, clean and creamy.
Palate: Sweet and pure. Vanilla iced sugar cookies. Orange. Very dessert-like. An easy drinker, to be sure, and VERY out of character for Balvenie. Closer to an Auchentoshan in a lot if ways. Very clean wood. Some apple too.
Thoughts: This was a fun one. It’s great to see a distillery not only release an expression that veers off from its recognized profile, but release a really good expression that strays from the beaten path. It shows the multi-dimensionality (is that a word?) they’re capable of.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt