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I would describe myself as a Balvenie fan. While I am not enamored of their Doublewood duo, or their 21YO, I quite like the various 17 YO finishes I have sampled (all too expensive to buy), love the Tun series, and am especially fond of their 15YO Single Barrel. About the same time as I started hearing the rumors that the 15YO SB was going to be discontinued, I began to notice recent bottles had removed the “distilled on” and “bottled on” dates. This was similar to the labeling used on their new (also excellent) 12YO Single Barrel. As I suspected, the trend continues for the labeling on the brand new Balvenie 15YO Single Barrel Sherry Cask. You know that it is at least 15 years old, and you know the cask number. That’s it.
The one that I have nearly finished and am reviewing today is cask 4443. Bottle states that whisky is non-chill filtered. It does not say anything about coloring, so I am going to assume it is colored. It does look nice – A pleasing burnished copper brown tinge that cries out “I’m sherried!” A shame really, because with this nose, it simply is not necessary. This has a great nose, full of brown sugar on the front end, all spice on the back. It is very lush, very full. I do not get much fruit or honey. Surprisingly, the taste is considerably less sweet. There is more of a drying spice – think all spice, cloves, that sort of thing – which I have come to expect from Oloroso. More on that in a minute. Finish is on the dry side, and a bit woodsy as well. Quite nice all around. I was happy enough with this one that I went out and bought 2 more from the same barrel to set aside.
While I did like this, I should point out that I don’t think Oloroso sherry aged whiskies are my thing. They are much drier and more aggressively spicy than PX aged or finished whiskies. I much prefer the more chocolaty candied sweetness from PX sherry, like Sonnalta PX, Yamazaki 18, even the Glendronach 12. In fact, I am beginning to think that the reason I prefer the Glendronach 12 to the 15 is that the 15 uses solely Oloroso, while the 12 uses a mixture of Oloroso and PX. Maybe that is also why Macallan 18 never did the trick for me.