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Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood

Good Oak

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@vanPeltReview by @vanPelt

18th Apr 2014


Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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My 6th Balvenie, approached with high hopes compared to the experience with their 12yoDW.

Nose: Leathery cinnamon oatmeal and coffee. A follow-up breath reveals some reds, of baked cherries/apples. Overbreathing brings grassy lemon pith. The 12yo version's nutmeg and anise are happily absent now; the nose is rather more similar to the 15yo Single Barrel. Especially that malty leather makes this 17yo enjoyable.

Palate: Lovely honey and vanilla entrance (maybe the honey is just slightly tart). Becoming increasingly woody, with oaky nutmeg tossed into the vanilla-honey. There is a glorious balance hit at some point... until the dry woodiness dominates into the finish. The 12yo was drier and woodier; this 17yo has brought balance with more honey-vanilla. For personal tastes I find the nutmeg overbearingly drying toward the end.

Finish: The tongue stays dry initially. Some good malt (cinnamon-oatmeal) comes exhaling through the nose. Light nutmeg still on the tongue. But green apple skins in the back of the mouth taint the experience for me. The finish is reminiscent of the 12yo.

The overall impression is vanilla/honey/nutmeg. There is much improvement over the 12yo, which I would not have considered owning on the basis its initial taste. The 17yo is a pleasure, but as noted by others, the price is not justified. The 12yo approached this level of quality after oxygenation, so I would rather buy a bottle of that and let it breath for a year. Even the 15yo might be a better purchase, and Balvenie's 21 Portwood finish remains my favorite of their range. Balvenie's best value remains their Caribbean cask. In short, the 17yo's price/quality ratio just doesn't fit in the spectrum of Balvenie's other offerings.

For similar experiences, look to Jura 21 (less vanilla/fruit, more dry/coffee), Glenfiddich 19 Age of Discovery (also unjustifiably expensive), Glenfiddich 14 Rich Oak (more vanilla but lower relative quality), Glenlivet 16 Nadurra (fruitier), and my recently reviewed Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask (less honey, more fruit). The latter 3 provide great value.

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