By Kurt Maitland
William Grant & Sons, also makers of Glenfiddich and Monkey Shoulder, founded The Balvenie distillery in Scotland’s Speyside in 1892. While The Glenfiddich might move more units for William Grant & Sons, the fact is their crown jewel is The Balvenie. Living legend Master Blender David Stewart continues to hang his hat there.
This Balvenie expression is matured for at least 15 years in a traditional ex-bourbon cask, and not to be confused with The Balvenie 15-Year-Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask Scotch. In writing up the Sherry Cask, I promised that I would “tackle this release another day”, so here we are.
No more than 350 of these hand-numbered bottles are drawn from each barrel, and as these are single barrel releases, each barrel is its own animal. The bottle in my possession is number 137 from cask number 279, and bottled at 47.8% abv (95.6 proof).
Color: Reddish gold
Nose: With the first whiffs I get loads of citrus, tangerine really, with a hint of vanilla cream. Deeper exploration adds chocolate and a bit of raisin to the mix.
Taste: Even keeled, with vanilla and lots of meaty fruits like candied cantaloupe, even Sweet-Tarts. Hints of cloves dance around the core Balvenie goodness and tempers the sweetness of this release. The texture of the liquid is well-rounded, with a velvety feel that turns a bit peppery and hot on the way out.
A few drops of water cuts down on the sweetness and kicks up a more perfumed aspect of this release. I can’t say that the water really makes it better. It seems to weaken it and make it a shadow of itself.
Finish: Spicy, with a quick spike of middling sweet heat.
As good as the Single Barrel Sherry Cask is, this release is better, pure and simple. The flavor is fuller and more consistent. I don’t want to take anything away from its sibling, but that consistency alone is making me bump it up a ½ a grade.
As low as $79.99 US if you can find it, but it will go up as it gets scarcer. It is not a standard release and it may not be around for too much longer.