Balvenie 12-year-old Single Barrel
Balvenie was established in 1892 by William Grant and sits right next to its famous ‘big brother’ distillery Glenfiddich, which he established some 6 years earlier. Both are still owned by his descendants under the independent company ‘William Grant and Sons’.
Balvenie, for decades a low-profile traditional distillery producing excellent whisky for ‘insiders’, suddenly burst onto the mainstream whisky map in 1993 with the release and promotion of it’s now famous and ubiquitous DoubleWood 12 year old.
One of Scotland’s most famous Malt Masters, David Stewart, is still leading Balvenie after over 60 years at the distillery and is responsible for its current extensive lineup. However, the release of ‘Single Barrel’ expressions is still somewhat unusual for Scotch Distilleries.
Mash bill: 100% Malted Barley.
Batch Size: Single Barrel. Cask 541, Bottle 20.
ABV = 47.8%.
Matured: Matured in a ‘first fill’ ex-bourbon barrel for 12+ years. Hand selected for bottling.
Cost: $110/750ml bottle.
Color: Pale Gold: 0.2 (Whisky Magazine). Light, suggesting modest interaction with the cask.
Swirl: Substantial rim with a lot of fine ‘legs’ forming quickly and flowing down the glass. Rim puckers up and multiple droplets remain on the inside of the glass.
Nose: A surprisingly healthy aroma. Straightforward, pleasant vanilla notes on the top of a fragrant sweet honey and light toffee base. Some mild baking spices. Relaxing. Like walking past a confectionary shop. Alcohol prickle kicks in but is not severe.
Taste: Generally consistent with the nose. Delicate with a light vanilla cream up front. Sophisticated, laid back, well balanced. Some oatmeal with a hint of brown sugar. A little orchard fruit, maybe pears, kick in. Perhaps the faintest touch of licorice. Overall, it is smooth, simple, and well-integrated. However, significant warmth develops over time, bordering on fiery. As such, it presents as a younger whisky than it is. A touch of water tamps it down nicely.
Finish: Medium, with no surprises as it fades away.
Verdict: Recommended as a ‘back to basics’ scotch whisky with a light, sophisticated persona. More years in the same American Oak barrel would be of benefit, but those versions are pricey and tough to find.