The Balvenie distillery is located near Dufftown in Speyside and actually shares a water source with its neighbour (and fellow William Grant & Sons owned distillery) Glenfiddich.
Founded in 1892 by William Grant it produces around 5.6 million litres of spirit per year and is one of the few remaining distilleries to still have active floor maltings on site.
The three expressions that I will look at are the 12yo Doublewood, The 14yo Carribean Cask and the 17yo Doublewood. These were all sampled as part of a recent twitter tasting, more on which later.
Balvenie Doublewood, 12yo, OB, 40%abv, part of a organised tasting, (available here)
On the nose it is quite subtle, not giving much away. There are soft notes of rasins and sultanas with a faint butterscotch or perhaps toffee hint, there is a little lemon twist here and subtle tones of ginger and a touch of orange.
The palate is smooth and has tea like elements along with the raisins and sultanas that were present in the nose. There are some delicious honey notes here and the subtle orange notes make another appearance.
The finish is slow and warming leaving hints of cloves and mild spice. There is a nutty element here that I hadn’t noticed before.
It is a very well put together whisky. The flavours are phenomenally well balanced and compliment each other perfectly. Interestingly this was the first ever expression to pioneer a cask finish.
Yes, I suppose in the grand scheme of the whisky world it’s a little tame, but I can’t help but enjoy its simplicity and balance.
Balvenie Carribean Cask, 14yo, OB, 40%abv, part of a organised tasting (available here)
According to the label this whisky has been matured in traditional oak casks before being transferred to casks that previously held Caribbean rum. It doesn’t state how long this extra period of maturation is however.
The nose is big on fruit and vanilla. Big hints of apples and a toffee element cover a slightly spiced undernote. There is a nice lemon freshness here and some faint oak. There is something incredibly more-ish about the nose.
The palate is smooth and the vanilla notes are there again. Maybe I am getting carried away with the Caribbean theme but I’m sure there is a creamy coconut note here also, mixing well with some apple and mango notes.
There is also an intruiging rum ‘n’ raisin ice cream element towards the end of the palate, as we move to the finish.
The finish is smooth and quite short and brings about the re-emergence of raisins and spices from the vanilla rich palate.
Very creamy and a deceptively big mouthfeel, a little ginger appears again at the end. Creamier and less spiced than the Doublewood 12, which has the richer charater of the two.
Again, there is nothing too complicated about this whisky, a true easy drinker. It is well crafted, smooth and drinkable with a creamy, fruity and pleasant character but perhaps lacks a little on the palate after the depth of the nose.
One to sit, drink and enjoy whilst not thinking too much about it.
Balvenie Doublewood, 17yo, OB, 43%abv, part of a organised tasting, (available here)
On the nose there is a big difference between the 12 and 17. Much deeper and darker but lifted by some nice lemon notes and a nip of ginger. Notes of soft leather, cedar wood and well aged tobacco are plentiful.
The palate is balanced and refined. Soft gentle raisins, steeped in laid back tannic black tea alongside some orange elements and buttery vanilla. There’s a nice redcurrant note that lingers pleasantly. Again, cloves are the dominant spice as the finish fades.
All through the vertical there has been a strong Balvenie esscence in each expression, each one tweaking it slightly but staying true to character.
I’m going to stick with the 17 as my favourite as it really gives a feeling of refinement and balance, however both the 12 and 14 showcase the nature of the spirit, even if they are a little muted at a lower abv.
Anyone else love to try a cask strength Balvenie? I re-read my previous notes and surmised then ‘that drinking Balvenie was like listening to great music with the volume turned down just a little too low’.
Is Balvenie perhaps rather underappreciated and overlooked as a brand? I’d argue that it was very much the case and possibly unfairly so.
It does sell a massive amount and it’s ubiquity might just be its downfall.
I get the impression that many drinkers who have tried it feel the need to move on to find more complexity.
Most malt drinkers I have raised this with seem to agree. Once tried they rarely go back, indeed this was the first time I’ve tried the 12 and the 14 since I first bought and tried them years ago.
Always fun to go back and try a dram from your past…
This review looked at three Balvenie expressions that were sampled as part of a Twitter Tasting led by Balvenie UK ambassador Alwynne Gwilt and facilitated by Steve Rush over at The Whisky Wire as part of Balvenie’s ‘Craftsmans Dinner’ project.
This online series is hosted by renowned Michelin starred chef Michel Roux Jr and celebrates modern day artisans from urban bee keepers to experimental cheese makers, each using traditional techniques to create their products in the most unexpected of places, from a rooftop overlooking The Shard to a council estate in Tottenham.
You can find out more by heading over to the Craftsmans Dinner YouTube channel.