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  1. #1
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    Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    We are going to go ahead and introduce a Foreign Whisky of the Month. Starting at least for the first few months as a Distillery, could in the future be specific bottlings but since most of us here are bourbon-centric I agreed that focusing on an entire distillery might make some strict bourbophiles a little more apt to try something from a different land.

    Sorry this is going to be a short month for this one so in light of that I wanted to choose one that I think would definitely be worth coming back to in a year or two; the Balvenie. In my opinion some of their expressions are a lot more approachable for one who typically drinks only bourbon. And I think we all can admire they still do most, if not everything, themselves - oh, and they're not owned by Diageo.

    Balvenie is one of the few distilleries - other than Ardbeg of course - which I currently have more than 1 bottle open of at the moment. I currently have the 17 year Peated Cask and a Single Barrel 15 year bottled in 2001 which I find incredible. I've actually been treating that akin to a bottle of Weller 19, only having it occasionally because I know I'll never find it again.

    Please discuss and feel free to make suggestions about what is a good starting point. Obviously the 12 year is probably very attainable in most places and a good starter bottle for just about anyone who isn't already familiar with The Balvenie.
    C

    "everybody defamates from miles away
    but face to face
    they haven't got a thing to say"

  2. #2
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    Thanks for teeing this series off V-o-L! My first experience with Balvenie was after dinner (on somebody else's expense account) one night - one the guys orders a round of the 12yr Doublewood. It was rather unremarkable at the time due to the fact that we had downed a lot of wine and I'd just had some Ardbeg Corryvreckan prior.

    I got a mini-sampler set (12yr Doublewood, 15yr Single Barrel, 21yr Portwood) and gave it another go. They were all well crafted but aside from the sherry or port influence, they lacked any oomph or were too sweet or not sweet enough or yadda yadda yadda. Yeah, I was exhibiting some Goldilocks characteristics for whatever reason.

    That was until I tried the 17yr Madeira and boy did that make me perk up and pay attention! This was "just right"!

    Since then I've tried many of the regular expressions but the Balvenie TUN 1401 Batch 3 is the one that's stood out for me - probably the best single malt scotch I've had in my short whisky drinking tenure... I can spend all night with a single pour of this.
    ¡Geaux Tigers! - ¡Visca el Barça!

    "Really though, my hands are sore. The tool was doing it's thing with a flex hose." -Barrel_Proof

  3. #3
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    I think a good one for a bourbon/rye drinker would be The Balvenie 15yr Single Barrel - spicy with oaky vanilla and at over 94 proof is similar to the higher strength you might be accustomed to without the peatiness if you are looking to avoid that - nice mouthfeel and I'm guessing more bourbon barrel than sherry here, so again it might be a "gateway" scotch, except for the price!
    Mark

  4. #4
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    Balvenie is one of those malts that is difficult not to like, yet difficult to love.

    I find it surprising that bourbon (an in-your-face drink, generally at high ABV) drinkers find Balvenie (a middle-of-the-road malt lacking in strong flavours and LOW abv) a likeable malt.

    To me, most of the expressions are very thin and would benefit from a few higher ABV points*. Being one of the most expensive malts at all of the age categories also means it doesn't offer much value.

    *ok to keep the 12 doublewood at 40% but everything else could use a bump. Its almost laughable that the 12 & 15 year old single barrel aren't even at cask strength but watered down to a consistent abv.

  5. #5
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    The 15 is a really great whisky. Not peaty, not a sherry bomb, just a really classic down-the-middle Speysider from the hand of David Stewart, Master Blender. He's been at the helm of Balvenie for 50 years, and can be attributed some credit for pioneering finishing and multi-barrel aging. I really enjoy the Balvenie profile, which is front and center with the 15, and once you know it well, it enhances your experiences with the different annual 17 year old releases.

    It's also rarely a bad idea to have a dram of the 21 port wood, though cost is certainly a consideration.

    Edit for response: Don't want to jack the thread here, but is it laughable that the Buffalo Trace single barrel releases (Eagle Rare, ETL, Blanton's, etc.) are diluted to an even lower proof than the Balvenie 15 (47.8%)? That seems like an incredibly ridiculous stance to take here.
    Last edited by Yeti; 06-17-2013 at 06:55.

  6. #6
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    My only extended experience with The Balvenie was at a tasting that included the 14yo rum cask, 15yo single malt and 17yo peated cask. I had expected to like the rum cask but was not as enamored with it as I had hoped. I agree the 15yo cask was the best to me, as an occasional scotch malt drinker, and would work the best for people not that accustom to scotch. The 17yo peated cask was OK but pricey and while I don't mind smoke it just didn't seem balanced and didn't work for me.

    Having tried Balvenie in this setting I did not feel compelled to acquire any for future consumption.
    That yella whiskey runnin' down my throat like honey dew vine water and I took another slash…

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    Ne Illegitimi Carborundum

  7. #7
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeti View Post
    That seems like an incredibly ridiculous stance to take here.
    Maybe so, but all the other major players* (including its own sister distillery Glenfiddich) offer at least one expression at cask strength.

    *Glenfiddich: 15yo Distillers edition (not exactly cs but close @51%)
    Glenlivet: 16yo Nadurra
    Aberlour: a'bunadh
    Macallan: cask strength (10yo in some markets)
    Glenfarclas: 10yo 105
    Talisker: 57 north, storm
    Springbank: various
    Ardbeg: various
    Lagavulin: 12yo
    Laphroaig: 10yo cs
    Caol Ila: cs
    Bowmore: 10yo tempest
    etc
    etc

  8. #8
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    True, and several of those are in regular production, but many are annual releases. And to that end, Balvenie offers the Tun series which is more limited than any you mentioned, but still obtainable, as well as the much more expensive vintage releases.

    I'm a "cask strength uber alles" kinda guy myself, so I know where you're coming from, and I'll certainly stand with anyone who wishes for a sister release to the 15 year that's straight out of the barrel.

  9. #9
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    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    Good choice, I think of the Grant Family as similar to the Shapiras and their company as the Heaven Hill of the Scots whisky trade. Their principal single malt, Glenfiddich is the largest selling single World wide and the distillery next door, Balvinie, produces a range of single malt expressions to please a wide range of palates.

    My choice of the Balvinie singles is the Founder's Reserve, formerly a vatting of 8-12 year old whiskys, in recent times it was issued as a 10 year age stated label but I suspect there were some older barrels in the mix. Slightly smoky, lightly sweet, mature and mellow with a clean, dry, long finish. Remarkably well balanced (I like that in any whisky) it's a dram to sit and contemplate the constituent parts while reflecting on how seamlessly they merge together.

    Regretably, it has been supplanted by the 12 year expression which I believe errs on the side of sweetness but apparently that's what sells today.

  10. #10

    Re: Foreign Whisky of the Month - 06/2013: The Balvenie

    I recently purchased a bottle of the Founder's Reserve 10 year. Is there any way to tell when it was bottled? Thanks.

 

 

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