The Balvenie (17 year) DoubleWood

The Balvenie, still one of my favorite distilleries, recently launched a big-brother expression to go with their wildly popular 12 year-old DoubleWood. An additional 5 years of maturation in traditional ex-Bourbon oak casks, followed by a similar short (less than a year) dunk in ex-sherry European oak, gives a perfect balance of fruit, oak, and malt. Skeptics might wail about the relatively brief sherry maturation (considering some malts, such as The Macallan and GlenDronach are aged exclusively in sherry for their entire maturation periods), but it’s my opinion that The Balvenie’s house style is so light, subtle, and elegant that it needs only a dip in sherry to realize its full potential. Several years in ex-sherry would, I believe, wash out the distillery characteristics of heather and honey and would yield only a bland fruit-punch of a malt. The world is full of sherry-bombs, The Balvenie is all about subtlety and finesse.

Released to celebrate Malt Master David Stewart’s 50 years at The Balvenie, The 17 year-old DoubleWood is a straightforward upgrade to its 12 year-old younger brother. More time in ex-bourbon yields deeper oak flavors and turns an already smooth malt into silk. Alas, in these times of inflated whisky pricing and rabid demand for special-editions, it should be no surprise to anyone that the 17’s suggested retail is a whopping $129 US. Ouch. If you’ve got the scratch, though, or can find it for under $99, it’s a truly transcendent malt and a straight-up improvement over the already excellent 12-year DoubleWood in every facet.

Nose: Juicy black cherry, honey lozenges, apple cider, light heathery florals, and a very faint raw green banana. A pleasure to nose, with layers of fruit and light, airy malt. Elegant and polished, with no blemishes whatsoever. A rest in the glass releases more fresh banana and an undercurrent of oatmeal with brown sugar. This is banana I can get behind!

Palate: Medium-bodied. Fruit on the entry, with tart apples and cherries again. Evolves into creamy grain and graham crackers. So easy-drinking.

Finish: A little on the short side, but very nice honey-sweet notes and some lingering vanilla oakiness. Leaves you with an impression of quality and finesse.

With Water: Water picks up the nose tickle, but doesn’t yield much else. No need for water with this one.

Overall: Tastes to me like a cross between the usual 12 year-old DoubleWood and the 15 single-barrel. While the extra age is apparent, I would have said it was the same age as the 15-year in a blind tasting. That said, the marriage of elegant light bourbon-aged Balvenie malt with a cavalcade of fresh sweet fruit from the brief dip in sherry barrels is spot-on, like the 12 DoubleWood with a little more of everything that makes it great, a bit more refined, and less bitter oak on the finish. A pleasure, but at this price point – definitely a splurge.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Built by the Grant family in 1892 as a sister distillery to next-door Glenfiddich, The Balvenie still remains in the ownership of the family. Unusual for a distillery of this size, Balvenie still operates its small floor maltings, grows some of its own barley, and has an on-site cooperage. It now has eight stills, which some think are the key to its nutty, honeyed style – they are fat and have short necks.
The Balvenie (17 year) DoubleWood
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $115 - $120
Acquired: Review Sample. Thanks Tori at Maloney & Fox!

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  • The price point and ABV will probably keep me away. While it sounds tasty, it just doesn’t seem like a good value when the Single Barrel is roughly half the price.

  • Given that I prefer Balvenie 15 SB by a wide margin to 12 DW, I’d consider a cross of the 2 to be a downgrade to SB. So why the price premium? I love Balvenie’s offerings but they’ve priced me out. Despite being a favorite malt, I currently have no Balvenie in the whisky cabinet and no plans to re-stock at current prices in the US.

  • If I weren’t in glut I’d probably buy it. As it stands I’ll probably buy the 15 single cask, when I next hear about a particularly stand out cask. I love Balvenie’s honeyed flavor profile. This 17 Doublewood sounds like a delight with its kiss of sherry and balance with the excellent Balvienie house honey. The 15 is that house honey pure and simple, but the quality of those single barrel editions does vary…

  • Balvenie does still have an affordable range. The 12 doublewood, 12 signature, 15 single cask, and 14 Caribbean cask are all in the $40-$60 range. It’s only once you hit 17years and up that the price starts to hit the $100’s which isn’t much different than other distilleries!

  • I am a fan of the Signature and the 15 yr old Single Barrel. The original 12 yr old Doublewood in the 1990’s was far superior to this 17 yr Doublewood. This new 17 yr old upgrade is bait too delicate for me. I like my malts a bit syrupy and this one isn’t that for sure. It is a fine malt but?

  • Very nice whisky; very smooth with subtle flavors – however for $120 I find it to be over priced…Balvenie has also released a new 12 yr Single Barrel that retails for roughly $70 (if you can find it)…Is it me or is the Balvenie distillery getting a little too pricey for what they have to offer?

    • I’ve been thinking the same thing. Balvenie remains one of my favorite distilleries, but their pricing has become distasteful. I think the 17-year, while very good, is $25 overpriced. The 12-year DoubleWood has also gone up recently, and is still worth the money but is no longer a great deal.

    • I live in Australia and 4 years ago at Dan’s & the 17DW was around $120. I bought it on clearance for $90 and havent yet opened it. i think i saw it there today for the mid $80 range. I have seen a number of comments now saying it didn’t deserve it’s pricepoint.
      It must not be a great seller if it has come down so much on price.

  • The only balvenie I have been privileged too so far in my journey is the 12 year double barrel, which where I am living is a whopping 67.99 (I know, fml right). Honestly, I was greatly disappointed. The Macallan 12 is only six dollars more, and to me is eons ahead of this dram. There is just too much bourbon there to make me appreciate it’s complexity. Admittedly very smooth through and through, it just gives me a thirty dollar bourbon with less harsh alcohol burn on the palate and finish. I have been trying like crazy to acquire a bottle of the single barrel but, to no prevail around here. I have been very happy with the direction this site has pointed me and was sore faced after the 12 so, after this review, am not looking towards the this dram.

  • I paid $25.00 for a shot of The Balvenie 17 double wood at the Las Vegas, NV airport. That’s a cheaper way to obtain a sample if you don’t want to spring for the whole bottle. I found it to be delicious. Beautifully smooth and creamy with a soft finish; just the way I like them. Yes, the price may be a little out of order, but I’ve spent that much on a lot of other things that didn’t give me as much pleasure.