Balvenie Single Barrel 12 y.o. Bourbon Cask (Cask #12806) Review

Balvenie Single Barrel 12 y.o. Bourbon Cask041 (Cask #12806)

47.8% abv

Score:  87.5/100


Here’s an odd little Balvenie.  Much more ‘naked’ than what we typically see from this Speyside juggernaut of a distillery.  This is kinda like peaking behind the curtain and seeing what’s really at the heart of it all…a Wizard Of Oz sorta deal, if you will.

Balvenie generally typifies almost all that bores me in the big distilleries.  Whiskies of low strength, forced color and generic profiles.  Credit where credit is due, however, Balvenie have been upping the ante in recent years with a couple of rather tasty 17 year olds of various cask finishes or maturations; not to mention the near-universally lauded Tun 1401 series.  Sadly I’ve yet to try the latter, but if the fates are kind we’ll get there eventually.

Balvenie is most often characterized by a rather hefty sherry influence (or occasionally some rum finishing…or Port…or Madeira…).  This 12 y.o. Single Barrel, affording an opportunity to see what the whisky was like under the influence of nothing more than a first fill bourbon barrel, was irresistable to the curious whisky nerd in me.  Fortunately, there was more than sated curiosity that came of drinking this one.  It’s actually a very decent dram.  I think I prefer this to any of the other young Balvenie I’ve tried to date.

I should note:  The Single Barrel range is a series of releases, wherein each cask yields around 300 bottles.  And while it may be single cask, it is not cask strength.  All of the releases in this series are hitting the shelves at 47.8%.  Hmmmm.  Wonder what the rationale is for that particular bottling strength.  No complaints here.  We like it just fine that way.

Nose:  Floral notes.  A lot of vanilla, as I’d sort of expected.  Some licorice.  Play dough.  A little bit of pink bubblegum (bazooka joe?).  Almond-heavy Indian sweets.  A light dusting of cinnamon.  A bit of lemon and some barley sugar notes carry through.  Sweet, clean and creamy.

Palate:  Sweet and pure.  Vanilla iced sugar cookies.  Orange.  Very dessert-like.  An easy drinker, to be sure, and VERY out of character for Balvenie.  Closer to an Auchentoshan in a lot if ways.  Very clean wood.  Some apple too.

Thoughts:  This was a fun one.  It’s great to see a distillery not only release an expression that veers off from its recognized profile, but release a really good expression that strays from the beaten path.  It shows the multi-dimensionality (is that a word?) they’re capable of.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

6 thoughts on “Balvenie Single Barrel 12 y.o. Bourbon Cask (Cask #12806) Review

  1. Robert

    Okay, the big question. How does it compare to the 15 YO, especially since they are essentially the same price here? Although I like the 15, it’s difficult to justify the cost compared to other whiskies.

    1. David

      I tried this from a recently opened bottle last night. It reminded me in some ways of a Springbank CS. A bit bitter on the palate. Nice nose though. And no benefit to adding water.

      Not a bad dram but if I can remember back to 2011, I think I liked the 15 YO better.

      I had bought this when Ralfy reviewed it early in the year and decided to give it to my uncle for Father’s day. I figured he’d open it sooner than me so I’d be able to taste it and decide if I want one or two.

      Given that I have a lot of stuff waiting to be opened, and these are north of $100 at the LCBO, I won’t be picking up a bottle. But if offered a dram, it may be that I would accept (depends what the choices are).

      1. Robert

        Picked up the new 15 YO sherried version this week for $10 less than the 12 ($56!!!). Tried it and went back the next day to pick up their one remaining bottle. Also picked up the last two at another store with same cask #. It’s flying off the shelves here, so that should tell you about how good it is. Although 15 years in a sherry butt, it is far from a sherry bomb. In fact, it noses and tastes like a few years of finishing, but it is quite good. The word to comes to mind is “delightful”. It hasn’t had enough settling time for me to score it, but as Ralfy says “It’s a good’un”. Very pleasant oak and spice.

          1. Robert

            The state made a mistake in the price and it is now about $110 a bottle. That’s a bit high for me, but it is good stuff. Luckily I still have two bottles left. Balvenie is quite proud of their Scotch. I also like the 17 YO DW, but refuse to pay $117+. If the Scotch market has slowed, it hasn’t shown up in pricing. Recent example is Lagavulin 12 going from $65 to $90.

  2. Robert

    I finally opened the 12 SB I’ve had sitting, waiting its turn. As I recently finished my Nadurra 16, I needed another bourbon-influenced whisky open. So far, not as good as the Nadurra, and it seems slightly more spirity than I remember with the older 15 SB. A very good dram, but currently around 85 points. I’ll let it sit for a while and see how it fares. Although I’m enjoying it, I’m not sure I can justify a price twice that for Glenmorangie 10. If price and availability weren’t issues, I’d just go with the Nadurra 16. That’s a perfect 87 whisky to me.


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