Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Scotch Whisky Review: The Balvenie Single Barrel 15

This is the second of three sample bottles of Balvenie bottlings that I got in a small boxed set. I've discovered that 50 milliliters isn't much when I split it with my wife! But it's enough to get a taste of a whisky.

The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 is a lovely gold in color, and sticks to the glass with an oily, almost waxy coating. There's a hint of oak on the nose, vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, and a bit of acrid smoke like burning leaves drifting in.

On the tongue the texture is thick and smooth; the whisky is hot and quite drying, but with a nice muscat sweetness, toasted coconut, and maybe even a touch of banana and licorice. There's quite a bit of honey. The sweetness lingers, with a long, yeasty, shortbread finish. There's no peat, but there is some smoke. It's a very nice dram. Grace rates it an 8.5 out of 10, and I concur. I'm especially impressed by the way the heat is moderated by the syrupy texture and the blend of honey and oak; that makes it especially well-balanced and satisfying.

With just a splash of water, the malt and vanilla become more forward, and the heat recedes. Like many whiskies, it paradoxically seems drier in the mouth with a little water. That elusive black licorice note becomes more pronounced. It's definitely worth trying it both ways to bring out that flavor. I actually prefer this one wet. I would definitely consider buying a bottle; this one is mid-priced, as single malts go. All in all, a very fine whisky!

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