The Balvenie Doublewood 17
For those of you that follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that we posted a few photos from a whiskey tasting event we attended last week. Each time we go to such events, we always try to expand our knowledge, and taste different expressions from both old favorites and unfamiliar distilleries. Since we are typically more detail oriented, we try to type down some notes of whiskies that surprise us at tasting events. We found several interesting whiskies last week across many categories, including a blend from Compass Box (The Spaniard) and a Rye from Peerless. One bottle was so interesting that we decided to buy it the next day to do a full-blown review.
As many of you know, Speyside is a massive whisky producing region. Encompassing some of the largest and most well-recognized brands (including Glenlivet and Glenfiddich), we have often found ourselves looking beyond the region to find more eclectic distilleries. Yet, as we have discovered with Benromach and some of our whisky advent calendar drams, there is quite a bit of experimentation and innovation coming from Speyside. Balvenie has proven to be a great example. For years we had not paid much attention to the company’s products simply because, for us, the distillery seemed to blend in. This was reinforced by the fact that Balvenie is a product of the umbrella of William Grant & Sons, which includes Glenfiddich. We definitely considered the flagship Doublewood 12 expression a solid dram, but we were in search of distilleries with a more unique narrative.
As it turns out, Balvenie has a more interesting story than we realized. The company is one of the very few distilleries to both grow their own barley and malt it in house. In addition, the company maintains a cooperage, meaning that they are especially well equipped to utilize all different types of cask to mature their whisky. Whisky production has been going on at the Balvenie site since 1893, with the distillery being relaunched in its current form in the early 1990s. Most notably, Balvenie master distiller David Stewart is credited with being one of the pioneers of cask finishing, using different casks to change the final character and flavor of a whisky. In short, there is a lot more to like about Balvenie than meets the eye.
The Balvenie Doublewood 17
We were positively surprised by the Balvenie Peat Week sample we received in our 2018 Whisky Advent calendar. With that in mind, we made sure to stop by the Balvenie booth at the Breakthru Whiskey Classic last week. The brand ambassador there strongly recommended the Doublewood 17, even though she had older bottles with more exotic cask finishes at her disposal. The Doublewood is the flagship product of The Balvenie line, and the name refers simply to two types of casks used to age this single malt. For the 17, the malt spends 12 years in ex-bourbon casks and is then transferred to sherry casks for the remaining 5 years.
Eyes: Pure amber color with a rich, syrupy texture in the glass.
Nose: A clean and refreshing nose with a blend of apples, grapefruit and fresh cut grass. A bit of dry oak lies beneath all the fruit scents.
Taste: This is one of those drams with a flavor that evokes a particular image. While there was a lot of oak tannin throughout, the dominating flavor was reminiscent of toasted marshmallows. Pleasantly sweet but not overpoweringly so.
Finish: The finish is dynamic but the sherry influence comes to the fore with baked apples, raisins, and a healthy amount of try oak tannin to close things out.
The Doublewood 17 is very balanced and rich, and we would put it in the same category as the Glenfarclas 21 year old we reviewed last December. The sherry cask influence is prominent, and the taste overall is clean and on the sweeter side. At 43%, we found the whisky to be very approachable but still complex (though we’d love to try a cask strength variety!). The Doublewood17 is on the more expensive end, so there may be some better value bottles out there. Nevertheless, having tasted many bottles with different cask finishes, we were very impressed with this example from one of the pioneers of the practice.