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My previous (limited) experiences with Balvenie have not exactly encouraged me to explore their full range of expressions. I've sampled the 12 yo DoubleWood (not bad, no more), the 17 yo Peated Cask (great nose, at least), and I shared my thoughts on the 15 yo Single Cask in a previous review.
So why did I spend money on another Balvenie when my encounters with the label had been one "meh" after another? Mainly because the online reviews and descriptions led me to believe the semi-new 14 yo Caribbean Cask had a flavor profile that I'd enjoy. One of the few occasions in my life when my instincts were spot-on. This is luscious stuff that earns a must-have spot in my cabinet.
Don't judge this whisky by the first dram out of the bottle, however. I enjoyed my first taste, but I thought it lacked complexity, with little more than loads of malty caramel. Now that my bottle's about six drams down, it's starting to reveal its true depth and many layers.
Nose: Honey, vanilla, and malt dominate, with touches of apples, raisins, wood, and bitter tea. A wonderful, ever-evolving nose.
Palate: Pretty much what the nose led me to expect, with some toffee, cake, and peppery spices now in the mix. Like all the sweet, warm goodness of your corner bakery in a single mouthful. A long, chewy taste also brings out a touch of lime in the dead center of my tongue -- a nice refreshing touch of tartness that keeps things from becoming too syrupy-sweet. Finish is very smooth, with malt dominating and spices lingering. Not the slightest trace of bitterness in the entire experience.
According to a few sources, this whisky is aged for 14 years in oak casks, then finished in rum casks -- although it's not clear exactly how much time they allot for the finishing (not long, apparently). Some have mentioned that it's not a particularly "rummy" whisky -- and I'm not much of a rum drinker anyway, so I wouldn't know. I can only say that it's one of the richest and most satisfying whiskies I've tried in its price range, and I'm glad that Balvenie has made the 14 yo Caribbean Cask a permanent member of their lineup.