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Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira Cask

Average score from 4 reviews and 14 ratings 88

Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira Cask

Product details

  • Brand: Balvenie
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 43.0%
  • Age: 17 year old
  • Bottled: 2009

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Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira Cask

This is my 4th Balvenie, after the satisfying founder's reserve in '06 to the continously disappointing doublewood, the decent rum cask, and the rather beautifull port-wine finished 21 year-old.

So where would this 17 year-old Madeira finishing fit on this speyside roster?

To explain these varied(to be nice) experiences with a distillery with such an illustrious past (recent past) I will just say that some distilleries fare better than others when under heavy marketing policies. Two good examples would be Ardbeg and Balvenie. Although i don't like Ardbegs eccentric marketing strategies over the past 5-6 years i must give credit where it's due and say that it hasn't held up on, nor diminished the quality. Whereas for Balvenie, ever since the marketing gurus over there took the place over a number of years back it has never really been the same star it was in the 80s and 90s.

But enough about lectures, focus on the whisky.

Nose: This can be easily summed up by Apples and Barley/Barley sugars. It's two-dimensional, but rich! The Apple note is complex and goes from sour green Granny Smith's to Sweet/Lush Red Gala to end up with a slightly bitter yellow apple or apple peel really. Very complex apple note, which is always supported by that rich barley and barley sugar note, which lays as a steady bass on the the apple-solo.

Taste: The Two-dimensional nose translates to a three-dimensional palate. The arrival is delivered by the still superb apple combo punch. This then gets the company from Tuscan blood oranges and Jerez oranges. The two hold the palate up all for themselves delivering very complex undertones that are quite hard to differentiate, which suggests good marriage. Then there's an explosion, actually not an explosion, more like an explosive surge of peppers. It's so forceful i can't differentiate the peppers at all for which i will give the description Black peppers and piri piri.

Finish: This is this whisky's BIG weakness. Funny that Jim Murray said the finish was long, i agree quite well with the nose and taste (although it's always going to be different between expert and amateur) but couldn't see a long or even average finish in here. Such a shame for the stable, 2-3 dimensional quality on the fore to be let down by such a disappointing finish. It's disappointing mostly for the fact that it is the same weakness that lies deep within today's Balvenie range. The word for it is a desperately short "fade" where the flavor never comes back, and you try sipping it back thinking you didn't focus enough or that your taste buds had a lapse of attention, but no.. it's gone.

So a drama of a whisky really, a great performance somewhat ruined by the now anticipated mediocre "fading" Balvenie finish, here's to hoping they can correct the course of their, otherwise, lovely Speyside Ship! Get Better Balvenie!


The nose is immediately engaging and just makes your mouth water; sweet wine, melon, and fresh cut pear. After letting it open a little bit, brown sugar, cinnamon, and musty wood.

When this stuff hits your palate, it explodes. Spice and madeira are dominant, followed by various fresh fruits and oak. The finish isn't super long, but it fades out very nicely (I do wish it was a bit longer though).

I never thought I would find a Balvenie--or another Speysider for that matter--that I would enjoy more than the 21 year Portwood, but this stuff is absolutely phenominal. It is hands down the best Balvenie I've had and one of, if not the, best whisky I've ever tasted. I strongly recommend you buy a bottle. Wow.


Nose: It's as if we've gotten up in the morning, straight out of bed, and sat down at the breakfast table. Perhaps even outside, it's a summery breakfast in Madeira. There are some dates and gooseberries just to freshen up the senses, there's even a faint waft of coffee beans to open up the eyes a wee bit. We then move into something more substantial to start the day, some cereal covered in honey, and some pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Sprinkle on top of that some basil and mint, and it's quite a dish. We're not done there though, this is quite an abundant breakfast, more of the hotel buffet variety. So indeed we help ourselves to a side of ginger cake drizzled with white chocolate sauce, and some sweet buttery shortbread for good measure. The whole buffet is infused with the vanilla scented oak from the table, and there's even some red liquorice and bubblegum for the kids. Once we've finally made it through the whole platter, there's a little bit of eucalyptus just to refresh the senses again. This is a breakfast not to be rushed.

Taste: A creamy and medium bodied delivery, with some gingery spice to wake the late-sleeping palate into action. A good thing as you wouldn't want to sleep through the sweet vanilla sponge cake, coated in a molten oaky butter, and topped with freshly sliced bananas, raisins and gooseberries. Whereas the nose decided to end the breakfast with some refreshing eucalyptus (it had been quite a buffet), the palate decides to indulge slightly further and walk away from the table with a rich butterscotch sweet, in the style of a Werther's Original. One is tempted to just go back to bed after these kind of breakfasts. Perhaps if only just to have it again upon waking..

Finish: The finish has a rather more hurried breakfast, although no less delicious. The last to arrive, he has a few little leftover samples from both the nose and the palate's platters before making off to start the day. There's a hint of cold coffee that's been left, as well as some tangerine peel, some vanilla cream licked off of the damp oak table, and some toffee. There's a refreshing bay-leaf that seems to have come from somewhere, before we end the quick bite with a piece of liquorice and a burst of refreshing menthol.

Balance: If ever there was an indulgent dram to start the day with, then this is it. That said, as a child I remember the most fun thing to do was have breakfast at night, and perhaps that's the mantra to be had here. A morning dram for a summery day, and a heartwarming lift to have on a cold winter's night, dreaming of more comfortable climes. It in fact suits such a dual faculty, as it has all the flavour profile of a sweet and fruity summer dram, yet with the weight and warmth of a winter treat. This is a beautiful example of Madeira cask maturation done right, resulting in an intricate and richly balanced malt. A very fine piece of whisky making.

Morning Madeira !

Glad you enjoyed this one so much @OJK, it is very well put together.

Indeed @Jean-Luc! A fine souvenir from a very memorable Whisky Show!


I am a HUGE Balvenie fan. In fact, I haven't tried a Balvenie expression yet that I did not like. My favorite so far is the 21yr Port Wood. This whisky is a nicely aged dram with an interesting finish, being extra matured in Madeira casks. I don't expect it to be better than the 21yr, but I hope it is better than the 12yr Doublewood. I ordered a sample of this whisky off Master of Malt's Drinks By The Dram. Let's see how it goes, shall we?

This whisky is bottled at 43%, which is a decent ABV. I much prefer the 15yr Single Barrel, as it is around 47%; or at least 46% like Glenfarclas 15yr.

Nose: Wow! Fantastic! Caramel and brown sugar! Fruity delight! A nice rounded note. Plums and berries, yet some milk chocolate as well (not bitter dark chocolate). Some nice spice coming through. There's something else coming out... French toast?

Body: Nice mouth feel. Not watery at all. Rich and strong.

Palate: Sweet spice! This is delicious! The spice is really building, yet the flavor is still smooth and sweet. Citrus fruits predominate.

Finish: Long finish, with plenty of pepper. Orange zest mixed with vanilla honey.

This is a very good whisky. For those who like pepper and citrus fruits, this is the perfect whisky. At the price this bottle sells for ($115 or so for a 750ml), I don't think I'm going to be too tempted to drop the coin on a bottle. The Madeira Cask has the spice of the 14yr Caribbean Cask, but with a layer of citrus fruit over the top. This combination really works. I prefer this whisky over the 14yr Caribbean Cask, but the price is just too high for me to get into. If this whisky was the same price as the Caribbean Cask 14yr ($60), I would probably go for it, as it is really something different (and in this case, different is good!) The DBTD program isn't exactly cheap for those of us in the U.S. with shipping and all, but it's a LOT cheaper than the alternative. I am very glad I had the chance to taste this dram, and I'm even happier I got to taste it for around $8!

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