A few months ago I discovered Balvenie 12. I was… disappointed, to say the least. While not a bad whisky (we’re certainly not hitting Famous Grouse territory here), I was seriously disappointed. There’s a sort of whisky fanboy enthusiasm that was immediately snuffed out – what was all the fuss about?
I recently had a glass from a full bottle and my first impressions were confirmed. It’s meh.
So, I figured now would be a good time to dig out the other two miniatures I have – the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask and the the 17 DoubleWood. Maybe Balvenie needs a little age, or some funky casks, to really get going? Onwards!
First impressions are lovely! The most dominant smell is that of bananas and pineapple. A truly tropical nose. Add to that some coconut, toffee, and the barest hint lime zest and you have a party in a glass. The Piña Colada of whisky. Raisins, ice cream. Some butter. While I wouldn’t describe the nose as being similar to “rum”, there is a distinctly tangy cask woodiness that I haven’t experienced anywhere other than the Glenfiddich 21 Rum Cask… so this must be how rum casks manifest themselves in Scotch. Good good.
Wow, so er… what happened?
Let me try and describe: An intense burst of fruit, some overripe pear, banana skins, and then… nothing. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. Weak, weak, weak.
Like the 12, Balvenie 14 tastes watered down, flaky and insubstantial. If it was a hotdog you’d be reaching for the mustard. Meh. There’s no single flavour that stands out proudly, and when something does, it’s gone in a New York minute. Truly… boring. No peat to titillate the tastebuds. No layers of spice, contrasting sweetness, indescribable flavours or chewy moreishness. Just a bit of banana, some alcohol and the finish.
That rum cask takes centre stage, leaving the mouth uncomfortably bitter and tangy. Not great.
Yup, also not a fan of Balvenie 14. Having tasted it side-by-side with the 12 I can definitely see the distillery character poking through, but I suspect that the house style is just totally unsuited to my tastes. Dry, dull, a little awkward, plain. Balvenie: the 2-minute noodles of whisky.
In terms of Speyside “style” (a term that means less and less every day) fruity, easy drinking drams – there are far better for much less money out there. Together with the slap in the face that is chill filtration, colourant and only 43% strength, I’m stunned that Balvenie has the cult following it has. Bizarre. Someone, out there – what am I doing wrong!?