Next up, the second eldest of Balvenie’s core range (next to the 21-year-old PortWood expression, which fills me with trepidation).
For the Balvenie 17 DoubleWood (ugh, these names) they’re essentially sticking to the 12-year-old formula of using bourbon and sherry casks, but presumably erring more on the side of sherry in the 5 extra years spent maturing. The colour, while fake, is particularly inviting. Feeling the satisfying crumple of the little metal cap upon opening, I emptied the lot into a Glencairn and got to work:
Okay, very rich. I can smell that Balvenie 12 malt quite clearly here, but it’s being complimented by some really fantastic stuff all around. A Glendronach style sherry layer, light on the sugar and heavy on the fruit. White grapes. White chocolate. Cinnamon. Almonds. Something like cured ham lurking in the background. Great huffing strength.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Balvenie 17 is orders of magnitude less pathetic than the 12 or the 14-year-old, a major departure in terms of suckitude and boredom. And best of all, I feel they’ve bottled it at the perfect strength – no more longing for that extra percent or two of ABV.
Spicy, zesty, fruity and a light grassiness. There’s a sweet candy floss layer that coats the top of the palate. And sharp notes of lemon, allspice, licorice, paprika and marzipan. Interesting, complex, and loads to discover with every gulp. You’re left with a sort of sawdust dryness on the finish, and just the right amount of bitter sherry lingering around for the long haul.
Watch out – floater! Balvenie 17 loves some water, and I found it particularly enjoyable with a colossal block of ice. The syrupy quality when it gets cold helps tame the lemon a little, opening up to let you appreciate the subtle sherry.
Whew, that was close. Everyone has an expression or two that they don’t like from a particular distillery. Highland Park 15 is a bit odd. Same with Glenmorangie Lasanta. But Balvenie came pretty close to being my next Springbank, namely – a little grossed out by everything they produce. Fortunately Balvenie 17 is a competent, solid dram that does a lot of things right, in a try-hard sort of way.
But waaaaay too expensive. It makes no sense to me. Again there’s something about the cult of Balvenie that I’m just not understanding. For less money you could buy a bottle of Lagavulin, Highland Park 18, Glendronach 15, The Spice Tree… The list goes on. I don’t know who would buy this. I’d never buy it.
So drink it, but don’t buy it.