Balvenie Signature 12 y.o. Review

Balvenie Signature 12 y.o.007

40% abv

Score:  84.5/100


“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”

I am not won over yet by this whisky, but I am intrigued enough to occasionally feel its lure from behind the closed door of my cabinet.  The Balvenie Signature 12 year old is a nifty l’il whisky.  Its character is surprisingly assertive.  Just the thought of certain drams is enough to paint a vivid picture for me (the Islays come to mind…as does the Fusion).  This is just such a whisky.

So, why the sea shanty (fictional or otherwise) atop the page?  Well…I don’t really know.  All you need to know about this whisky is that it is absolutely defined by its overwhelming woodiness.  All I could think of was pungent wet wood.  Resinous planks soaked in whisky.  This in turn led me to…pirate ships.  Hey…I said it painted a picture.  Didn’t say it was logical.  Now tell me you’re not thinking the same next time you sip.

This Highlander spends 12 years maturing in first-fill bourbon, refill and sherry casks.  The rich deep color obviously imparted through the latter.

There is wood (obviously) on the nose.  Sherry and all the dry fruitcake notes that usually accompany it make an appearance, as does marmalade.  Some spice, scones and vanilla.  The nose is massive and deep, and very nostalgically pleasant.  Almost…dusty somehow.  This is much bigger than I would have expected from a whisky at only 40%.  I have to use the word ‘pungent’ again here to describe it.

Across the palate…a little thinner than I’d like, but not overly.  It leaves a dry finish, similar to sipping a big-bodied cabernet.  Those fruitcake notes are all over the tongue as well.  Raisins…plum perhaps…a hint of rum.

The finish rolls on and on like waves against the barnacle-encrusted hull of said fictional pirate ship.  A finish that lingers is imperative in whisky, however the last notes in this one are not all pleasant.  There is a slight bitterness at the tail end.  I would score this higher if the mouthfeel was a little more beefy.  Oh well.

This whisky really is a grower.  Though uncertain about it at first, I find I appreciate it a little more every time I pour one.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

6 thoughts on “Balvenie Signature 12 y.o. Review

  1. Robert

    Funny you review this now. I got a bottle a few weeks ago and really enjoy it. I’m already getting ready to buy another, as this bottle is quickly being drained. Will probably stay in my cabinet as a standard.

  2. Duane

    For those starting off, Balvenie Signature or Balvenie Doublewood is an excellent choice. Who would believe a 12yr old Scotch has such a smooth finish. Some call the Signature a ‘Ladies Scotch’ because of the finish. It is a standard in my collection. Of the 5 batches made, you didn’t indicate which one you tried.

  3. Robert

    I can’t find this anymore and recently heard it is being discontinued, apparently replaced by 12 YO Single Barrel. I do love the 15 SB, but there is a lot of variation between bottles, much much more than the Signature. They are all good but range from a good bourbony banana (Irish?) in one to an excellent heather honey (Dalwhinnie-like) in another. Signature you kinda knew would taste similarly good bottle to bottle. Is this 12 SB also going to have such wild variations? If so, why have both the 12 and 15? Oh! I just realized that maybe the 15 is being replaced also! Hmmmm!

  4. Robert

    Wow! I guess I was right over two years ago that the 15 SB was on the way out. Not rocket science to figure out though. Don’t like the new 12SB, at least not for a higher price than the old 15 SB. Signature was just right price wise for the quality and I do miss it. How about some more Balvenie reviews as there are still lots of AS versions out there (just at too high a price). I’d like to see others takes on the 17 Doublewood and others.

    1. Jeff

      Have you tried the 21 PortWood? I took it to be a firm testament to the quality of Balvenie spirit overall and firm evidence that, whether or not I just don’t like port finishes out of personal preference, that they’re often just too heavy-handed for milder whisky – sort of the reason that I wish Bushmills would do something else with their 16 and why I think the Quinta Ruban, in hindsight, isn’t nearly as bad a use of port as some others. I haven’t tried the Single Barrel, though I’ve repeatedly read that the style’s so different from the Doublewood that few don’t have a clear preference of one over the other. Balvenie maybe doesn’t have the same opinion of their quality as Macallan, but products (outside of Glenlivet) that insist upon the “The” before their name are,for whatever reason, inordinately pricey – I think the 21 was about $225 when I tried it and it now sits at $349.95 (LCBO madness, of course, but still only $259 – mostly $263.21 across the States – on Winesearcher). Cheers!


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