Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Balvenie 21 PortWood

Balvenie 21 PortWood
Price: $140-$160
Strength: 43 %

The Whisk(e)y-A-GoGo (WAGG) is a major whisky tasting held each year at Julio's Liquors.  At the 2009 tasting, something was really working for Balvenie.  I remember trying all three of the SherryOak 17, RumWood 17, and the PortWood 21.  All three felt deliciously rich and sweet, a perfect balance between honey, oak, and sweet fruit, and especially the PortWood, which I declared best-of-show and of which I purchased a bottle.  Unfortunately, I've had no taste of Balvenie since that day that has equaled that experience.  I don't know if it was the novelty of the first taste, the peculiar state of my palate on that day, or if the brand ambassador had special bottles just for that day.  Whatever the cause, those magical pours must remain as elusive as a wondrous place found only in a dream (like that tavern I found in the woods behind my childhood home in Connecticut, where I felt perfectly at home, found friends, and drank orange Samuel Adams).

Still, I cannot say anything bad about this Balvenie expression that is finished in port barrels.  There is the regular Balvenie oak and honey (more oak than the 12 or 15 year-olds but not as much as the over-oaked SherryOak).  The nose offers some nice wood smoke, which is something I've not detected in any other Balvenie.  The port influence is soft in a similar way as the sherry influence on the 12-year-old DoubleWood.  This drink has great balance; dry on the nose and finish, but sweet and full on the palate like a dessert sauce.  Between the price, age, and subtleties of flavors (which I'll leave to better tasters than myself to fully describe), the sort of whisky that gives Scotch the stereotype of being the exclusive interest of rich, old, white guys.  92 points (A-).

Other Balvenie reviews:

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  1. Hmm, I don't I've had this since that magical dram at WAGG's a little sad that it hasn't stood up to that first impression.

    I'm looking forward to the Balvenie table this year...I'm hoping to try something with a unique finish. did you know that Balvenie did an Islay cask finish one year? That would be interesting to try.

  2. This is one of my favorites of this year. A truly great malt and truly worth the money.