I was given as gift on my last birthday a bottle of The Balvenie 12 year old single barrel scotch. My good friend had recently attended a tasting put on by Balvenie, and had enjoyed the samples. I guess Anthony Bourdaine made a brief appearance, said a few words about the whisky, then promptly left with his check in hand. Anyway, I was fortunate to be given this bottle of Speyside scotch. Much thanks to him (my friend, that is, not Anthony Bourdaine).
Upon inspecting the cardboard cylinder in which it came, I see it has many positive traits right off the bat. Its 47.8% alcohol, so fairly strong; its non-chill filtered; it has a greenish-straw color, so it appears to have no coloring, tho I didn’t see anything on the packaging that would indicate either way.
Its #109 from cask #4703. It was aged for all 12 years in a first-fill ex-bourbon cask, tho I don’t know from which bourbon distillery it came from. Balvenie is owned by William Grant & Sons, and it is my understanding that they only own Hudson Bourbon; I highly doubt Hudson produces enough to supply the number of barrels that Balvenie would need.
I really enjoy single barrel whisk(e)ys because I love the idea that it is a more organic bottling, rather than being engineered to a profile by mixing casks. You could get a great bottle, you could get a less-than-great bottle, but each cask is somewhat unique.
On the nose, its classic Speyside. Citrus, melon, sweetness, a bit of malt, a little vanilla. On the palate, its sweet, a little salty, and malty. A little unripe apple, cinnamon,but I did not find it that complex here. The finish is medium to long, drying with time, and more complex. A little tart, with vanilla and baked fruit
Overall, there is nothing bad with this whisky, however there’s nothing that really bowls you over either. It’s tasty, its satisfying, but not at all challenging. Balvenie is a popular, good-selling scotch, and this is probably why – it’s a lowest-common-denominator thing. I feel it deserves a solid B grade, because there is nothing at all sucky about it. But it can’t get a B+ or above because it doesn’t go out on a limb. Not much that’s unique, or bold, or complex, or challenging. Again, there’s nothing wrong with being that way, and there is a need in the market for just such scotches. So it may be good for a party or a group that includes whisk(e)y newbies, because it could be a good place to start. It could also be a good first dram in a tasting, setting the bar for enjoyable and not off-putting, and you could then go on to more complex drams from there. Cheers.