I’ve been a big fan of The Balvenie since early on in my whisky tasting journey. It started, as I’ve now learned it does for many people, with the DoubleWood 12 and one of my favourite whiskies of 2012 was the Golden Cask Rum Finish 14 year old. I’m a sucker for whiskies that have a tropical fruit, honey and spice backbone and this company seems to almost always tick the boxes (at least on its more bourbon-influenced releases).
But I have decided that the latest release has now plumped for top position in my book.
The Single Barrel first fill 12 year old is the new kid on the block for The Balvenie. Last year, the company introduced the Caribbean Cask 14 year old and the DoubleWood 17 into its standard line-up.
The company already has a single cask bottling in the form of the Single Barrel 15 year old but that isn’t restricted in terms of the type of cask used. It is also being slowly phased out, so this 12-year old will likely be the star of the single barrel show in the near future.
The new 12 year old bottlings will come from first fill American oak ex-bourbon barrels, meaning each release should take on the heavier vanilla and sweeter notes one tends to get from a first fill cask (ie: casks filled with Scotch for the first time after holding a bourbon or sherry). It’s being bottled at a relatively high strength for The Balvenie – 47.8% – and is non chill filtered. No more than 300 bottles of each release will hit shelves so at a cost of around £43-£45 it’s quite a steal.
Because it is a single cask, the release I am reviewing will of course be unique, though I’m sure the malt master extraordinaire that is David Stewart – who’s been with the company for more than 50 years now – will be choosing ones of a similarly pleasing nature.
And so, to the review. Here’s what I thought:
(C): Runny golden honey
(N): Very floral with notes of honey and marzipan, and a touch of lemony eucalyptus, which surprised. As it airs, malty notes and freshly sawed pine wood come into play too. With water, those wonderful sappy pine forest notes come out more for me along with Christmas marzipan or sticky stollen.
(P): On the palate, this has a delightfully oily mouthfeel, due to that non-chill filtering aspect. It’s rich and sticky, and slightly sharp without water because of the high ABV. There are lemony notes, the taste of envelope glue, gummy honey and honeysuckle. With water, this hold up very well – a teeny hint of something almost smoke like emerges before a burst of strawberry foams dipped in honey.
(F): Without water, it’s subtle with fresher honeyed pine notes. With water, for some reason I kept thinking of watermelon bubblegum.
In conclusion, this new release shows it has gusto with its big powerful flavour and the richness that comes from both a high ABV and the non-chill filtering. It makes me want to try every Balvenie in this form to see how the other releases would be if given the same treatment. One to drink in a summer garden.