Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Balvenie 15

Balvenie 15 Single Barrel
Price: $55-$65
Strength: 47.8 %

Most "single malt" Scotch whisky is actually a blend of barrels, as long as all of the barrels originate from the same distillery.  Some of the complexity of whisky results from the fact that different barrel types and ages are blended together into the finished product.  Nevertheless, it is the task of the master blender to try making each "batch" like the others.  The bottle of Highland Park 12 you bought last year in California should taste about the same as the bottle you bought this year in Massachusetts.

However, Balvenie 15 is bottled from single barrels, and as a result there is no claim to uniformity.  Rather, the bottle says "Each bottle is one of a limited edition of no more than three hundred and fifty bottles.  Each bottle is unique and unrepeatable."

So with that having been said, this bottle is one of the best whiskies I have tasted, and definitely the best Balvenie (even better than the 21-year old PortWood).  The dominant flavor is bananas and cream, and this sits on top of an oily, mouth-coating body.  A smooth but very "big" whisky, and the finish is fantastic!  It keeps going and going, like an Ardbeg.  Beyond the bananas (which I never thought I'd like so much as a whisky flavor), there is the Balvenie characteristic honey and oak, all of which balance out perfectly.  

This particular bottle is a special selection by Julio's Liquors in Westborough, Massachusetts (and of course it is now sold out).  Big-shot John Hansell reviewed the same bottling here, and he gets much different fruit than I do.  What a phenomenal texture and finish to this one; I hope their other barrels approach this!  97 points (A+).

Other Balvenie reviews:

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  1. Amazing. It is one of my favourite whiskeys. I really liked your review.

  2. I agree, this is one of the best whiskeys I've ever tasted.