By Dave Faries

Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Scotch


Single malts from the reaches of Scotland achieved snob appeal during the 80s and 90s, thanks to their unique and often demanding character, as well as America’s newfound appreciation of more “authentic” items.

Now, clearly, the market has started to evolve beyond the merits of malts aged 12, 18 or 21 years.

Balvenie, a Speyside distillery, produces what they call “doublewood” malt, aged first in the favored American oak casks softened by bourbon then finished in Spanish sherry barrels—presumably to impart a fruitier haze to the finished 12 year Scotch.

Yet the American oak proves more assertive, both on the nose and the palate. A rich, acrid wood, caramel and vanilla aroma feathers the familiar maltiness. And an astringent, sodden barrel note powers through the initial heathery soft taste when first sipped.

Still, there is a sweeter fringe on the nose, akin to browning slices of apple. This shows itself as a nutty, floral combination that pillows the coming blow of wood and spice.

The finish, however, is all about the cask. Balvenie’s coopers should be proud.

It’s a mannered, friendly malt—just complex enough to cast a contemplative shadow, but balanced to smooth over any frayed reminders of the uncertainties brought by harvest year, aging and such.


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