Class: Speyside Single Malt Scotch
Reviewer: Andrew Owen
The Balvenie Distillery is located in Dufftown within the Speyside region, and is known for creating single malt whiskies that are peculiarly simple. When you start thinking about the *house characteristics* (the aromas and flavors inherent to a certain distillery's whiskies) of different single malts, you think about Balvenie. Balvenie malts are classically gentle and nuanced, and without wine cask or peat influence they'll display a fine range of honey, vanilla, and gentle floral notes.
The distillery itself was built in the late 19th century by William Grant, and has stayed in the Grant family portfolio ever since (Willam Grant & Sons also owns the neighboring Glenfiddich distillery and the Kininvie and Girvan distilleries in Scotland, along with a few other brands and distilleries). Balvenie puts out a tremendous amount of spirit from its 6 wash and 5 spirit pot stills each year, but still keeps a fairly self-sufficient operation. The distillery has 1,ooo acres of farmland where it grows its own barley, it ages all its stock onsite in stone warehouses, it has an operational malting floor, and it employs its own coopers and coppersmiths.
The 12 Year Doublewood is a great introductory malt to the Balvenie range, which includes several other age stated whiskies using a variety of cask types and several limited releases. In the U.S, the 12 Doublewood is also generally affordable at $40-50/bottle.
- Aged 12 years in ex-bourbon American oak casks before being transferred to Spanish oak Oloroso sherry casks for 9ish months. The casks are then vatted together in large oak tuns to marry for a final 3-4 months.
- Bottled at 43% ABV
- The Balvenie does not add color to any of its whiskies. This bottling is likely chill filtered, however.
Nose: Gentle and well rounded. Sweet green grapes, sherry-like sweet fruits (dried cranberries, raisins), honey, oak, and faint hints of melon. Balanced and very pleasant.
Palate: Soft and gentle mouthfeel. No heat. There's a heavy dose of oak initially, with hints of honey, a hard vanilla. Where did the sherry fruits from the nose disappear to? Compared to the nose, the palate comes across a bit thin, like something is missing.
Finish: Woody. Whereas it was a more matured oak on the palate, it is green and young on the finish. Some left over honey, green grass, a bit of clove. A trace of caramel apple is left lingering for a short amount of time.
Overall: Must try. Even though I'd by no means call this an excellent whisky, it does an excellent job *at its job* which is providing a great entry malt to Balvenie itself and Speyside scotch as a whole. This is one of the first scotches I recommend to anyone trying to break into the category, as it's a significant step up from the entry level 'livets, 'fiddichs, and lower shelf blends, but can still be found at a value price (in most markets).
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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