The Balvenie 25yo “Single Barrel” 1974/2002 (46.9%, OB, Cask #13282)

A long time ago, between 2000 and 2004, The Balvenie issued a series of single barrel bottlings similar to the 15yo, these bottlings however were much older, these were matured a further 10 years to become the 25yo single casks. All from 1974 (most of them) or 1978. And all at the convenient strength of 46.9% ABV. Who came up with this number anyway? By the way, I couldn’t find a picture of a Balvenie 25yo Cask #13282, so here is a picture of the similar looking cask #10141, that was bottled two years earlier. Most of these 25yo’s were bottled in 2000.

Color: Gold

Nose: Light, buttery, and very accessible. A little old bottle waxiness, but not a lot. Let’s say it’s not a 1972 Caperdonich. Some sugared yellow fruits and hints of banana. Still it does smell like something they don’t make anymore. Also some seaside freshness to this. After some breathing, it does come around a bit, it opens up. More fruit and more dusty ol’ wood. Almost an old Alsatian Gewürztraminer. Nope, this doesn’t lack complexity. Some hints of vanilla (ice-cream). Quite good, but very restraint. This one would have been great to nose at a higher strength. I have to say, that the longer you wait, the better the nose develops and gets more and more character.

Taste: Fruity and old wood again. It has a small initial bite that comes mostly from the oak. Finish is medium body with enough saying power. Vanilla and creamy texture. The fattiness dissipates quickly and the whisky breaks down in towards the finish. Wood attack! put this in your mouth and you think is pretty good (not great alas), but the vanilla fat is stripped, and you get hit by more bitterness than expected. The palate does lack complexity and balance. Aiii.

This starts out pretty good, great nose (eventually) and a great initial taste, but it all turns on you a bit, when the bitterness hits you, and leaves you with an unbalanced finish. To be frank, let this slip and try to locate an old 15yo (50.4% ABV, you’ll get a better deal).

Points: 84

The Balvenie 10yo “Founder’s Reserve” (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

And here is another entry-level whisky by the same owners as Glenfiddich. I guess Glenfiddich was (not anymore) the poor man’s Single Malt Whisky and The Balvenie is the more posh one. Even Glenfiddich started to churn out Vintage Releases from the seventies, that have a heft price tag. Balvenie makes about half the amount of Whisky Glenfiddich makes and with that still is a top ten seller. So William Grant & Sons have two golden goose’s on hand.

When looking around. and being new to Single Malts I almost fell in love by the shape of the bottle and really liked the way their labels looked. Not a lot to choose then. There was this 10yo (Founders Reserve), a 12yo (Double Wood), a 15yo (Single Cask), a 21yo (Port Wood) and a 25yo (Single Cask). And there was one limited oddity, the 17yo (Islay Cask). Nothing more. Today like with others there is more choice than ever. Lets have a look at the cheapest Balvenie, the 10yo “Founders Reserve”…

Color: Gold

Nose: Perfumy and powdery. Almonds and lemons. Apple pie. Hint of wood. Creamy. banana and cookie dough. Syrupy. Sweet and light.

Taste: Sweet and very fruity. Cardboard. Very short finish. Sweet but very light. Hints of smoke? Hints of wood and wood-shavings that give it just a little bit of character. Vanilla ice-cream.

First of all I have to admit it was a very long time since I’ve had those standards like this one and Glenfiddich 12yo. I almost never have a whisky that’s 40% ABV, or it has to be a very old Gordon & MacPhail bottling. So I’ve become very much detached of these standards. With that I may become a bit decadent and in memory unappreciative of these whiskies. Having said that I have to admit that these two whiskies surprised me a lot with their quality and taste. Nice stuff. There is one big if. These type of malts seems to me are so easily drinkable, that you would drink them the way you drank lemonade when you were a kid. These types of malts make alcoholics out of us 😉

Compared to Glenfiddich 12yo “Special Reserve”, both are different styles. This is sweet and fruity. Nothing more. Glenfiddich is more honest in style, more of a Lowlander I would say. I thought Glenfiddich was better.

Points: 77

The Balvenie 15yo 1983/1999 ‘Single Barrel’ (50.4%, OB, Bourbon Barrel #1300, 311 bottles)

Time for some more whisky then…

Let’s have a look at this old Balvenie. I have to say I don’t usually like Balvenie that much. I think that for me it lacks character and body. It’s usually a light whisky that is bottled at a relatively low ABV compared to other whiskies. This older 15yo is bottled at 50.4%, but more recent versions are bottled at a mere 47.8%. That having said. This 15yo and the original 21yo Portwood can be respectable whiskies, depending on the version you find. Still, I encounter the 15yo a lot, so I have the opportunity to try them on a regular basis and to me they don’t seem to get better, so if you want one, my tip to you would be: try to find an older one.

The Balvenie 15yo "Single Barrel" but not #1300Color: Light Gold

Nose: Vegetal, comes across as a very light and clean whisky. It’s powdery and the malt shines through. Dry wood. The cask didn’t give the whisky a lot of color, but is evident on the nose. After a while I get some lemony notes or maybe some lemon grass in combination with hot coco. Again I would use words like clean or fresh for this one.

Taste: Sweet and estery. Again the wood is there. It’s there from the start and I guess it will play a role for some time to come. Even the taste is clean, so if you like clean whiskies, this one is for you. Wow this one is very fruity now and does have some body. Prickly wood (not overpowering though), yellow fruits like dried apricots and peaches. Some bitter wood in the finish.

I would say this is a nice place to start drinking good malts. It’s decent and very easy to “analyze”. It’s clean and elegant and has some nice woody notes to show you what a cask can do. If you’re a connoisseur, well maybe this one’s a tad to easy. A friend of mine would say: “drinks well playing cards” Again, try to find an older one (50.4%). By the way, this is not cask strength. It is reduced to 50.4% to get more bottles out of a cask, or maybe the Balvenie drinkers like their 15yo a little lower than 57%. I’m not judging.

Points: 86