Posted By Charlie on February 4, 2012
The vital stats
Country of origin: Scotland
Region of origin: Speyside
Type: Single Malt
Age: 12 years (finished in Sherry Oak casks)
Proof: 86 (43% ABV)
ScotchInfo.com score: 85/100
Packaging: The short and stout bottle is in a nice tube that explains the two kinds of woods used in the aging and it also gives you a heads up about some flavors to expect. I like when a whisky respects its customers enough to give some hints, but also not labor on and on.
The bottle is closed with a cork stopper with a very nice wood handle. This is perhaps the best cork topper I’ve seen yet. This isn’t a super win or something, but it is something I notice after having opened many bottles of scotch in my years. It’s that nice little something extra that is good to see.
To the eye: The light golden hue is on-point with many scotches in this age-range.
Nose: I get the typical heather and clover notes that Balvenie is known for, but the additional sherry sweetness manifests itself as a very pleasing melon and fresh fruit aroma. Given the 43% alcohol I expected to need to use water to coax out some of the subtleties but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of harshness. The overall experience is like that of a much more mature scotch.
Palate: The first tastes are clearly of fine oaks. There is a tangy, nutty honey from the wood that blends well with the cereal malty flavors. These flavors are then surpassed by the sherry sweetness bringing a mix of raisins and dried peaches. There is no alcohol burn to speak of: this is a very easy drinking scotch.
Finish: The sherry and oaky blends into a medium-length carmel apple flavor. Very enjoyable.
Overall: I am very impressed with this scotch. I often pick The Macallan when I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for and I seriously think any serious scotch drinker would have a hard time differentiating between this 12-year and The Macallan 12-year. I am really enjoying this bottle and I am sure that I will pick up more of it so that I will never run out. Often with bottles that I review I’m glad to have tasted them but I can’t see when I’ll invest more into that line again, but this one is a for-certain keeper at my bar.
It is not a super complex dram that will have you coming back for more to try and understand it. It is simple and good: a combination that is often more difficult to achieve than complex. One can just keep adding variety to a scotch through aging to make it complex, but to stick to a simple method and have good solid flavors is a nice treat.
Similar To: This scotch is very similar to its Speyside neighbor The Macallan 12 Year. They both have a Sherry component. This whisky has a little bit more oak and a little less sherry sweetness compared to The Macallan. Depending on my mood I can prefer one or the other: do I want a nice sweet sipping scotch or something with a little more oak complexity.
Finding it: I’ve found this locally in my stores in Pennsylvania and I have seen it in NYC. Perhaps not as common as The Macallan 12-year it is nearly so in my experience. It should be within pretty easy access to you and luckily worth the drive if you have to shop around a little.
Who would like it: This is for the sweet scotch lover. I often find that sweeter scotches are good introductory scotches. Only rarely can someone not enjoy a tasty sweet scotch.
Who wouldn’t like it:If you need earthy peaty flavors to have a good time then you will need to look into a different bottle.
Pairing: I really like this scotch with earthy alty peanuts or chocolate. I even had a dram with a hand full of chocolate covered raisins and the pairing with the fruit and the chocolate is good, but almost too close of a match to the sweet and fruity tones of the scotch.
Other comments: Balvenie is quickly becoming my favorite Speyside distillery. They offer a variety of aging options from bourbon barrels, to sherry casks, to port barrels, to even the use of rum barrels.