Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Balvenie 12 DoubleWood

Balvenie 12 DoubleWood
Price: $40-$50
Strength: 43 %

Balvenie is sneaky good.  Proof of this is that while I've never considered this Speysider among my short list of favorite distilleries, I've nevertheless managed to accumulate five bottles of various expressions (representing a 12 share of my total whisky allotment).  This particular bottle was a gift from Santa Claus in December 2008. As you can see from the level of liquid remaining, this bottle is screaming "Kill me!", so it was a good candidate for my first review.

The label explains "DoubleWood": aged first in "traditional" whisky oak (which I suppose means ex-Bourbon casks) and then finished in ex-sherry casks.  Two words best express the Balvenie 12 DoubleWood experience: honey and oak.  Everything about this whisky leads you in that direction: the label and topper look as if they were cut from fresh timber, the liquid is the same color as honey, and I count the words "oak", "wood", or "cask" a total of seven times on the front label.  I think every review I've seen of any Balvenie remarks upon its "rich honey sweetness" or some-such.

So maybe I am just imagining honey and oak as I sip this drink.  I am, after all, a very suggestible person.  If I go to a tasting and the host says "swirl this on the back of your tongue and you'll really get the egg white and unicorn hoof," I'll nod my head in sincere agreement along with everyone else in the room.

But I swear it's there.  Honey and oak.  In addition, the sherry has a soft but appreciable influence on the nose and palate, imparting some pleasant wine-like notes and a touch of spice.  However, this is no sherry monster, as compared to a Macallan or Aberlour, and there have been times where I have had to try hard to pick out the sherry influence (perhaps depending on what else I've had to drink or eat). Some lesser notes include a slight vanilla, and perhaps a little nuttiness toward the end.

Gains points for:
  • Smoothness and medium richness, particularly for a 12-year-old.
  • Great balance and complexity.  Sherry mixes in well but does not dominate.
Loses points for:
  • Merely adequate finish, which is medium-length but a bit thin and slightly bitter on my tongue.
  • Pretentiousness of preceding distillery name with "The" on the label.
Overall: Exceedingly pleasant whisky that works well as an everyday type of dram but not something to reach for on special occasions.  85 points (B).

Other Balvenie reviews:

1 comment:

  1. For some reason I decided to skip this one and instead bought the 14 year old Caribbean Cask (also being a rum fan may have influenced my decision). The honey notes are a bit muted to make way for toffee and exotic fruits (which may be from the rum cask finishing). It's worth giving a try since rum cask finishes are uncommon for Scotches and this one is now a permanent part of the Balvenie line (US only though).