Day 6 of the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and at last a dram I have tried before! On one shopping trip to Sainsburys when I was still new to whisky I picked up a little tasting set of the 12,14 and 17 year old from Balvenie. A nice little set actually and still available if you are interested.
After day 5 being the Glenfiddich and with so much shared history to the Balvenie distillery this should be an interesting comparison to make.
The Balvenie site is located across the road from Glenfiddich. It was opened in 1893 by William Grant to cope with the demand placed on Glenfiddich by its success. The site is over 12 acres and was originally a country estate. Being a country estate they actual use some fields to grow barley for distilling. The site also includes 9 short fat stills which were replicated in the new Aisla Bay distillery and they even malt 15% of their barley on their own floor maltings.
Output from Balvenie was used exclusively for blends until 1972 when the first single malt was released on to the market. The number of bottles of single malt Balvenie has until recently been in short supply. This was mostly because of the demands placed on its stock from blends. The pressure was lifted when firstly Kininvie was opened in 1990 and then Aisla Bay in 2008.
The story goes that after no releases of Balvenie for quite some time it was decided in the early 1990’s to try an experiment. They would release a 10 year old “Founders Reserve” to see how it sold in the market. Using little to no marketing and off the shelf wine bottles to cut costs they produced this:
These are now sought after collectors bottles and go for anything from £100-£300 at auction. They were successful in their day as well and led to a rebranding in 1993 with a core line up very similar to what we have today using wood finishes to add flavour and interest.
Now, I am not sure about the truth of that story but I do like it so sharing it here with my disclaimer seems fair.
The Balvenie 17 year old Doublewood as the name would suggest has been matured in both bourbon and sherry casks. It is presented at 43% ABV and there is no information on colouring or chill filtration. It is available at most online retailers and whisky shops and can be found here for £81.49.
Nose – strong sweet honey with granny smith apple acidity
Palate – cinnamon buns, fizzying spices and pepper
Finish – finish starts quite bitter but develops into toffee and dried fruit
The 17 year old double wood comes in a lovely box and there is nothing bad in any of the tasting notes. I certainly cannot say I did not like this. Infact, I can’t even say I didn’t enjoy it.
My problem however is two fold:
- The 12 year old and the 17 year old in my opinion do not have much of a difference in taste or depth of character. With that in mind why would you buy the 17?
- Spending over 81 on this expression for a full bottle does not represent good value of money to me. The Glenfiddich 18 from yesterday was much more interesting and 20 pounds cheaper coming in a nice big presentation style box as well. Similarly the 12 year old double wood I mentioned above is 35 or less in supermarkets. Spending over double for almost the same experience is not doing the brand any favours.