Balvenie 21 Year Old Port Wood Finish

Balvenie Portwood 21It’s no secret that the Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year is one of my favorite scotch whiskys. At that price point, under $40 a bottle, it’s something I get to enjoy on a regular basis along with Glenlivet 12. The Balvenie 21 Year Port Wood is like the 12 year’s older, more refined, brother. Whereas the DoubleWood is priced at around $40USD, the Port Wood comes in at a more hefty $180USD. For each bottle of the Port Wood, you could get over four bottles of the DoubleWood; which explains why I don’t enjoy it as much as I possibly can!

When it comes to other finishes at other distilleries, I sometimes can’t tell that it’s been finished in a different cask. Oftentimes it can be a little subtle and unless you have had the non-specialty-finished whisky, you can’t pinpoint origin. Unless port is completely foreign to you, there’s no way you’ll miss the impact of finishing in port pipes. The specific sweetness imparted by finishing in port pipes is very evident on the palate.

The nose has the fruitiness I’ve come to expect from Balvenie, though I couldn’t pick out the raisins from their “official” notes. The palate is influenced by the portwine finish, supporting the fruit I picked up from the nose. The finish has a distinct nuttiness, like the aftertaste you have after chewing on walnuts. It’s also remarkably smooth, something you’d expect from a whisky old enough to be served at a bar.

At it’s price point, it’s an indulgence and not a regular staple, though you would be doing yourself a great service by picking up a bottle for your cabinet. Of the full “regular” range of Balvenie bottles, the only ones I haven’t enjoyed are the Thirty and Forty (aged 30 years and 40 years respectively). I imagine they would bring the same level of enjoyment I’ve come to expect from Balvenie.

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Tasting Notes

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year

I first tried The Balvenie DoubleWood (12 Years) in England at my friend David’s home in Beverly last Thanksgiving (had a great Thanksgiving meal too!). Well, it wasn’t until only recently that I bought a bottle for myself (two in fact, I forgot I already had an unopened bottle when I bought another in duty free two weeks ago) and it wasn’t until last night that I uncorked it.

At the time, what struck me about the DoubleWood was that it was matured in both whisky oak casks and oak sherry casks. The term “whisky oak casks,” listed on the label of the bottle, refers to bourbon whisky casks purchased from bourbon producers in the United States. US law states that bourbon casks may only be used once, so after the first use they’re useless to bourbon producers! The second cask of oak sherry is known as a finish, where the whisky is allowed to spend six to twelve months in a cask once used for sherry and picks up a bit of flavor.

Last November, my experience with scotch had been very limited. I was familiar with the smokiness and peatiness of Islays, as my friends had taken a liking to Laphroaig and Lagavulin (and to a certain extent Talisker). I was also familiar with the easy going clean and smooth flavors of Speysides, but it wasn’t until The Balvenie that I had something quite as sweet.

Tasting Notes

I get a strong vanilla on the nose and a hint of fruit sweetness, though I can’t place what fruit it is. Tasting is a thoroughly enjoyable experience as it’s sweet with a bit of spiciness. It benefits from breathing, as the strength is very present, and I used the time as an opportunity to continue sniffing it. The finish is warm and inviting but not terribly long, just long enough until the next taste.

(at some places the Balvenie DoubleWood is listed as 40% abv, my bottle was listed as a 43% abv)