Monday, January 11, 2010
The Balvenie 17yo Madeira Cask
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Dr. Whisky's most recent post attracted a good share of attention. This attention took various forms and lead to variable responses from varied corners of this world wide wondernet. I won't be linking them or summarizing them from here, but thank you, go f yourself, and everything in between.
Not one to shy away from controversy, I thought I would come right back at it with a post featuring a whisky from the distillery I represent as an ambassador here in the USA. Bam! Yes, I have said it before, and I will say it again, I currently work for William Grant and Sons. No secrets. This Scottish, independent, family-owned whisky company (not many can say that!) allows this little blog to continue and have NEVER asked that I say anything about other brands or our own that would be contrary to my right, true, and honest opinion... Yet. God bless 'em.
So if you are new to Dr. Whisky (or think he is a douchebag sellout) please feel free to gloss over this post. You are entitled to "reserve the right to dismiss the opinions of anyone on the payroll of a distiller as being potentially swayed by the facts of their employ"- JC Skinner. Potentially. You might as well add editors and some journalists and authors as well then, Skinner, as paid advertisements, receiving free samples and gifts, being invited to plush dinners and incentive trips could equally lead to swayed opinions... in the spineless.
If you have been around since this whisky blog began, through Dr. Whisky working for others (retailers, indie bottlers, and whisky companies) and noted that he remains as objective and transparent as one can be all things considered, then read on. If you smell BS please call me out on it. I beg you. And I thank you.
Other opinions on The Balvenie 17yo Madeira Cask HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and elswhere, no doubt.
This is the latest in the 17yo series that began back in 2001 with David Stewart's creation of The Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask... a name that incidentally would be illegal today under SWA regulations. Like calling this release "Island Cask" (yup, Madeira is an island). The whole range is now relatively collectible, especially now that David Stewart has gone into semi-retirement, no one knows for how long this series will continue. We've seen the Islay Cask, New Wood, New Oak, Sherry Oak, Rum Cask, and now Madeira Cask, a 17yo Balvenie that has matured in refill American oak casks before being transferred to casks that used to hold Madeira for an additional +/- 4 months*.
Madeira wine is essentially a fortified wine, like port, but from the island of Madeira. For Madeira wine, they actually heat up the wine to replicate the exposure to heat on sea travel that would have traditionally occurred. This exposes the wine to some oxidation and adds nutty, raisiny, and sweet butterscotch-like flavours to the wine.
For all Balvenies had on the malt mission or for more distillery info, click HERE.
Smells distinctly oaky. Sweet. Touch of nail polish, barley sweetness, and then a recipe for arrowroot cookies: vanilla, flour, honey, butter, and a touch of coconut.
Fruity and sweet on the palate with a strong oakiness. Explodes upon swallowing with dried fruits, toasty notes like aged tobacco or beer nuts, butterscotch, and toffee. Long carmelized finish.
When I first tasted this in the summer of 2009, I was initially struck by a youthful, new make-y element on the nose. Those impressions remain. This drop is deceptively fresh and youthful for a 17 year old with barley sugar sweetness and pear drop/estery notes. But on the palate is where this whisky truly delivers. Plums, raisins, tobacco, and all sorts of varieties of burnt sugar and butter (toffee, butterscotch, prailine...) swell in the mouth long after swallowing. The overall impression is of a whisky that is light, but full flavoured, and destined to be an after-dinner treat or a cigar lover's new best friend. One of the best in the 17yo series.
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