Whisky Review: Balvenie 15 Year Old, Single Barrel

Wow!  What a great whisky!  Balvenie produces a limited run of single barrel bottlings each year and I am impressed.  I found this to be a subtle whisky that starts slow, and just as you start to think you’ve missed something it sneaks up and explodes with rich, well developed, complexities.  Every sip brings something new!  This whisky was just a wonderful experience.

Please, please, please, take your time with this malt!  Find a quiet corner, spit out your gum, and savor the experience.

This Balvenie is a bit too sweet for me to consider it an every day spirit, but I think it would be an outstanding choice for holidays and special occasions.  I can see it on Christmas Eve, shared with the family around a fire to cap off a hearty meal.  It just conjures up winter nights, friends and family, and special occasions. OK, on to the technical analysis.

Credentials:  Bottle Number 269; Cask 11538; In Cask on December 3, 1993; Bottled January 21, 2009

Color:  A rich dark amber.  Very clear and pure.

Nose:  Just a bit too subtle.  The weakest feature.  The nose didn’t get me too excited, but there is variety there if you concentrate.  The initial nose from the bottle was a caramel sweetness.  In the glass I found hints of citrus, salt, hay, and an underlying medicinal quality.  As it sat, a dusty earthiness developed for me.  The complexity is there but you really need to work on it.  Next time I’ll add a splash of water to see if that opens it up.  I feel bad because I like this whisky so much, but I can only give it a 3 out of 5 for the nose.

Palate:  The Balvenie really begins to shine once it hits the tongue!  It is slow building but I love where it goes.  Sea salt, smooth peat, green grass, oranges.  It was very syrupy for me almost like a port or liqueur, and sweeter than I’m used to with Scotch.  The palate would make this an excellent dessert spirit.  I think it would also be great with a roast turkey, which is strange because I don’t usually consider whisky a dinner drink.  The palate earns an easy 5 out of 5.

Finish:  Easily the best finish in recent memory.  The finish is smooth but again builds up to reveal something new with each sip.  The sweetness is definitely there but also a bitterness that provides a wonderful contrast.  As this fades the oaks and woods emerge.  Then you get hit with the spiciness.  Cinnamon.  Ginger maybe, or nutmeg?  Grass and salt again, but fleeting.  I really like the way this malt finishes.  A 5 out of 5, hands down, great finish.

Overall Experience:  If you haven’t figured it out yet, the overall experience is damn good.  I really wanted to give it a 10, but the nose just didn’t do it for me.  So the experience earns a 9 out of 10.  This offering will set you back $75 or more, but it is well worth it.  If you find it, buy a bottle (or two) and save it for a special occasion.  Believe me, you’ll be glad you did!

Overall Score:  22/25

  • Nose: 3/5
  • Palate: 5/5
  • Finish: 5/5
  • Experience: 9/10

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About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!

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  1. greta says:

    i stumbled on your very informative site while looking up hikes/trails in the rincons. a relative newcomer to the sonoran desert (a year and a half now), sites like yours are extraordinarily helpful (and i will be putting together a survival pack based on your suggestions.)

    but about single malt. if you liked the balvenie 15 – you must try the 21. its a staple in my cabinet and always a glorious dram. and if you ever have the opportunity to try the balvenie 1964 it will shift your universe on its axis. such fun to find another scotch lover who also hikes (and shares life with a furry companion.) love this town!

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