Note: this is third in a series of 3 single-cask reviews.
On our visit to The Balvenie, we had the opportunity to valinch a small bottle (200 ml) from one of a few barrels they had set aside for that purpose. After a quick, slurped taste out of my hand, I chose the 14-year-old sherry cask. Each bottle we valinched was £15, which is not too crazy considering a 5 cl bottle of Tomintoul cost me £10 in a shop! In fact, the three retired insurance company execs we toured with made off with armloads of these little bottles from The Balvenie.
I still have about half of my valinched bottle, as I’ve only broken it out for a couple special occasions. As I happened to review two single-barrel selections this month, I thought, why not compare this single barrel? How does the random ‘guest cask’ at the distillery tour compare to the malt master’s selected single cask release? And what better comparison than from Review 103, the Balvenie First Fill, Single Barrel?
I first had this whisky at the distillery, as it was one of the tasters at the end of the tour. I was impressed then, have owned it, but forgot to review it. It’s an unusual finishing (rum cask) of the Balvenie, whose Doublewood I have reviewed favorably. In this case, however, we have an extra couple years aging on ex-bourbon barrels, then an unspecified time finishing in rum casks. I’m excited about the extra years’ maturation, as the 14 to 15-year rage is a sweet spot for Scotch; Oban 14 and the Glenlivet 15 both being examples of tasty spirits in that age range. (I have two more 15s coming, up, a Dalwhinnie and a Glenfiddich so watch this space).
I do not have an equivalent whisky to which I can compare this, so I’ll use the trusty Doublewood, a 12-year offering from Balvenie to see if this is a good power-up from the distillery. It’s a bit pricier, $74 locally, $10 more than the Doublewood. There is a lot of writing on the carton, but it’s not telling us a whole lot more that is new. The rum casking is intended to enhance the Balvenie’s vanilla notes with spicy aromatic qualities. David Stewart, the malt master, is noted for his 50 years’ experience. Wow!