The Balvenie 12yo Single Barrel

David Stewart

Many, many years ago, the Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel was one of the first whiskies I truly adored. The cask strength nature of the liquid endeared me to many things about this whisky. I loved the intensity of the aromas, I loved the richness of the flavours and I loved the ‘straight from the cask’ ideology. What I didn’t love was the price. Back then, I was a penniless undergrad barely able to cobble together a couple of quid for a pint of cat piss lager in the local student union and so a £60ish bottle of whisky was a once-in-a-blue-moon treat. Today’s hard-up students no longer have this quandary. The Balvenie have recently released a 12yo single barrel expression. Matured exclusively in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel for 12 years, the liquid is then course-filtered (to make sure you don’t end up with a mouth full of splinters) and bottled with no more than 300 bottles coming from a single cask. There’s no monkeying about – no chill-filtration, no addition of caramel colouring and no watering it down to 40ish% ABV; my sample sits at 47.8% ABV. Each bottle comes with the cask and bottle number, but unlike my beloved 15yo single barrel, there’s no distillation or bottling date which is a pity – as a self-confessed whisky geek I quite like knowing all of these (mostly irrelevant) details.

The legendary David Stewart himself said,“There are very subtle differences from cask to cask and it gave me great satisfaction to sample these casks to find the finest ones. Each cask is unique and that is what makes each bottle of the Single Barrel First Fill 12 Year Old exceptional.” The sample I have before me doesn’t come with a cask number or anything so my notes may differ from yours a little bit depending on which cask you taste. Well, that’s my excuse for writing dodgy tasting notes anyway…

Balvenie 12yo Single Barrel
Less than 300 bottles per cask
47.8% ABV
£44.50 from here

Nose: Rather floral with some confectionary sweetness. Lime zest, vanilla slices and pick n mix sweets. Pear juice and peach slices with custard. Then the tingly spice comes through with cinnamon swirls and some fresh pine wood.

Palate: Loads of honey on lightly toasted bread, vanilla fudge and a touch of coconut. Quite appley too – baked apples with sugar. As with the nose the spices take their time to emerge before faint oak and cocoa appear.

Finish: A citrus sweetness hangs about with some tingling wood spice.

Overall: Very much a Balvenie’s Balvenie, if you see what I mean. This whisky stays absolutely true to the distillery character yet offers something a bit lighter than the 15yo single barrel but also something with a bit more oomph than the standard 12yo Doublewood. So how does it fare for a single barrel Balvenie for under £50? Very well indeed. Complex enough to intrigue veteran cask strength whisky drinkers but also delicate enough to be a cask strength whisky to introduce to friends who might only have tried 40/43% ABV stuff so far. As ever, David hasn’t let us down.

Tiger

 

Comments

  1. “There’s no monkeying about – no chill-filtration, no addition of caramel colouring and no watering it down to 40ish% ABV…”
    So they have watered it down to 47.8% instead… How is that not monkeying? I’d say it is even bigger monkeying than watering it down to 40%. I am not saying that 47.8% is bad, I am just saying that this is deceitful. That cannot be natural cask strength for a 12yo but this odd number is suggesting just that.
    Just how I see it.

  2. Absolutely fair comment atanas. I simply looked at the ABV and thought it was either a leaky cask or the cask had been filled at a lower strength than the standard 63.5ish %. 47.8% seemed like such a random number that I just assumed it was CS. It’s suspiciously low though and it’s something I’ll be able to ask David Stewart about at the Meet the Blenders event tonight at the Scotch Whisky Experience – stay tuned.

  3. atanas – I spoke to Brian Kinsman last night instead of David Stewart and apparently the standardising of each Balvenie 12yo single barrel is due to feedback from several markets wanting it at a slightly lower strength. Hmmm…

  4. Tiger April 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm
    atanas – I spoke to Brian Kinsman last night instead of David Stewart and apparently the standardising of each Balvenie 12yo single barrel is due to feedback from several markets wanting it at a slightly lower strength. Hmmm…

    To Tiger
    ..like Karen Dunbar says…I smell lot’s of shit..)

  5. To Tiger,

    Sorry.. I meant shite..
    Have a good day!

  6. Willing to bet the “several markets” requesting slightly lower ABV were all located in their finance department.

  7. I am not sure what is happening but the 15 yo ha gone from $59 to $99 and the 12 yo to $79. Way too much for a mid range single malt.

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