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My first malt was a 10 yo Balvenie, and I fell completely in love with it. It made me aware how beautiful a malt whisky could taste. Since then I have tried multiple times to recapture the romance I experienced with that Balvenie 10, with very mixed results. When the Balvenie Founders Reserve 10 yo became scarce, a friend gave me a bottle of 12 yo Balvenie Doublewood, which from bottle opening until half gone bottle has just never cut it at all. (I reviewed that one.) To balance that observation, I also report that I have tasted from a different bottle, and, presumably, a different batch of Doublewood, which was much much better than my first bottle. I sampled some Balvenie Single Barrel 15 yo at a restaurant (unrecorded barrel #)of which I had high hopes, but which also fell way short, because there wasn't much to taste but citrus. I like the Balvenie 12 yo Signature's flavours, but find it too dilute. My experience with the 21 yo Portwood has been generally excellent, though my bottle of it seems not to have fully opened up just yet, compared to the previous excellent samples of it I have tasted. I have a bottle of the Balvenie 14 yo Caribbean Cask, in which I was at first somewhat disappointed, but it is getting somewhat better with the bottle opened. The one sample of the 17 yo Madeira Cask I had was also less than I had hoped for, but I don't know how long the bottle had been opened, and whether it may have come together given a little time. (by comparison: I found Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban quite disappointing for months, but now, with the bottle open for more than six months, it is starting to taste much better and more coherent.) So, after a not-so-thrilling experience (and review) of Balvenie 15 yo Single Barrel, I went on a whisky cruise a few months ago and had a very delicious sample of it. This motivated me to give it another chance when it eventually went on sale locally. Of course, it has to be noted, that as with all Single Barrel products, the buyer is dependent on the taste of the master distiller/selector in the selection of the barrels, and that the barrels will differ from one another, sometimes very significantly. The reviewed bottle is newly opened. It is from Cask #6562, casked 30 sep 1994 and bottled 8 feb 2011, aged 16 yrs, 4 mos. These single barrels are aged exclusively in former bourbon or tennessee whisky barrels.
Colour: rich and dark-- love it!
Nose: there is no grape wine aging here, but it is fruity enough that you might think that there is. This nose isn't much until you add a few drops of water. Then it becomes very floral with carnations prominent, with a little peach/apricot. The water gives you a nose well worth visiting.
Palate: Rich juicy malt with bourbon overtones. The oak is noticeable and pleasant, and some rye spice seems to have come through the bourbon casks. There is both sweet and dry simultaneously and in waves. There is a bit, but only a bit, of citrus here. Overall this is very nice. The addition of water makes the palate much sweeter. It is enjoyable with the water, but it is quite a different experience from this particular whisky sampled neat.
Finish: sampled neat, the finish became sweeter and spicier than the initial delivery. I like this sampled neat sweeter and spicier evolution into the finish a lot. With water, the finish just retained for a long period the strong sweetness which the delivery possessed.
Balance: Both the balance and the complexity of Cask # 6562 are good. Sweet balances dry/sour nicely and there are enough different elements to keep you entertained. I love that this is sold at a less-diluted 47.8% ABV, so that I can incorporate, at my own discretion, the higher alcohol bite into the mix of flavours of the whisky.
This is quite an enjoyable whisky. I wish that The Balvenie, and, for that matter, all distilleries, would sell all of its whiskies at no less than this ABV of 47.8% (Actually, if I had my "druthers", no unblended whisk(e)y would be sold at less than 50% ABV. 47.8% would be a very good start, though!)