Category Archives: Balvenie

Balvenie 12 y.o. DoubleWood Review

A rather iconic, but very much ho-hum malt, in this chap’s ‘umble opinion. I don’t mean that as a sleight. Honestly, I don’t. I just mean that DoubleWood is a supermarket single malt if ever there was one. Available at discounted rates in Costcos and Superstores, taking up prime real estate in every neighbourhood ma and pa liquor store, and almost guaranteed to be available in any fine spirit retailer. It’s everywhere. And that makes sense, since DoubleWood is sort of the flagship of the Balvenie range.

Straight outta the gates…I like it just fine. But it’s Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, in a way. Bland and inoffensive, but perfectly constructed and definitely drinkable. (Not to mention…it will probably make you feel better when you’re down!) I’m just not buying it. There are way more interesting whiskies out there.

Now, if I were as shallow as a certain fellow reviewer out there who many of us know – and was willing to award points for packaging(!) – this would definitely score an extra notch or two, ’cause let’s face it: Balvenie bottles look great. Clean, clear and classy. But…come on: that is utter nonsense. The whisky in the bottle is what counts, and that’s ultimately all that counts. The rest is just set dressing (and in some cases, lipstick on a pig). And as for the concept of ‘double wood’? Where do I start? Ex-American oak into ex-sherry wood. Not exactly innovative. I guess it all comes down to who brands things first, and who markets the concept to the widest audience.

Anyway, let’s wrap it up: safe, pleasant, pretty enough. Also, thin and rather easy to forget.

Oh, and 40% abv? Ugh! Come on, guys and gals. You’re better than that. All we’re asking is 46%.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Oh, so honeyed. Like honey poured over fresh fruit and eaten off a wooden spoon. A fresh floral top note. Gooseberry and orange marmalade. A touch of raspberry. Fresh plump raisin. Hot cross buns, or maybe warm brioche or something. Decent mid-palate spices. Led by pepper and ginger.

Palate: Oak and honey lead the charge. Slightly out of balance, I think. Berry fruit leather. More of those raisin notes. And firmly malty. Very dry cinnamon stick. A little too drying for my liking, almost tea-like.

Finish: Rather tannic and wearing the influence of the sherry quite prominently. Surprisingly lengthy for a 40%er.

Thoughts: Not bad. Far too thin, though.


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

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 y.o. Review

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 y.o.022

43% abv

Score:  83.5/100


I’m often a cynic with expressions like this, wondering how much rum influence we’ll see on the whisky.  Pondering whether or not it is just marketing.  Here, however, is a whisky absolutely emblazoned with the tattoo of sugar cane juice.

Weird mix, this.  And to be honest, I’m not sure how many malts could carry this off.  The heavy sherry woodiness of the Balvenie however, would seem to be a fairly solid vehicle for delivery in this case.

In simplest terms:  A sherried Speysider meets the relatively bold and synthetic flavors of a cheap rum (almost like a Bacardi Limon or something).  Love to know whose casks these were prior to their putting down roots in the warehouses at Balvenie.

Nose:  Some odd hints of pepper and pineapple.  Eucalyptus and pine.  Rum-raisin, brown sugar and apple.  Sharp citrus and orange marmalade.  A little bit of vanilla…and yeah…there’s a little bit of rum in there.  Coffee and toffee.

Palate:  Tobacco and spice.  Orange, pineapple and lemon.  Sprite or 7-Up (lemonade, for our friends in the UK).  Sharp burnt-sugar rummy notes.  toothpicks.  Pith and a bit of mint again.

Neat.  But not really my cup of tea (or whisky).


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

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