November 20, 2010
The Balvenie is owned by William Grant & Sons, which also built Glenfiddich. While its sibling distillery wins the popularity contest, The Balvenie is not to be overlooked. This whisky is exceptional for its honey-heather flavors and aromas, which arise from the heather growing in the hills above the distillery’s location in the Speyside region, over which the water that ends up in The Balvenie flows. The “Single Barrel” designation is interesting. It means that the individual characteristics which arise in a given barrel are present only in the 350 or so bottles which are filled from that cask. This means that The Balvenie you drink now could be vastly different from the bottle you buy next year, or even from the bottle you purchase across the street on the same day! The cask number, cask fill date, bottling date, and bottle number are printed on the label. This explains the vastly different tasting notes you might find from tasters of this Scotch. Rest assured whichever barrel you are drinking from, it will retain The Balvenie’s signature heather-and-honey flavors, and will likely yield up several fruits and flowers for you to identify. A single tasting event could be run simply from bottles of The Balvenie from different bottling runs!
Color: Rich golden
Nose: Honey and peach, buttery baked goods, angel food cake, white port wine, honeysuckle and freshly-cut flowers. Butterscotch.
Palate: Rich with honey and marzipan, low-burn. Clear and unmuddied heather at the beginning, middle, and end. Like liquid candy, but not cloyingly so. Delicate and floral on the attack, growing more nutty and with darker cooked-fruit flavors… like peach pie.
Finish is short, but with a lingering ghost of lilac and yet more honey. This dram makes me want to be a bee in the next life.
Adding a dash of water to the glass causes it to open up like a flower. Literally, perfumey notes of wildflowers, clover, lilac, rosemary blossom, and peach blossom rush out of the glass. With water, the floral notes persist into the taste, overshadowing some of the sweeter baked-good flavors. This is a Scotch that should be tasted both with, and without water, as its character changes dramatically.
When you’re in the mood to linger over a Scotch and appreciate the wide array of possible flavors as they evolve continually in the glass and in your mouth, reach for The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel. This one is a marvel, and because of the Single-Barrel style, you can come back year after year to discover ever different tastes and scents.