How much of a whisky’s flavour comes from the influence of the cask it has been matured in? Dr Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie is famously quoted in suggesting that 60% is the answer to this question. But, you don’t have to spend long on the Internet to find myriad other differing answers. Last week, I saw Irish bottler proposing (quite authoritatively, but with no evidence provided of course) that 80% was of course the answer. Regardless, all within the whisky industry would posit that the flavour of whisky is primarily derived from a combination of spirit and cask. This brings us onto the concept of cask finishing.
The Balvenie 12 year old was the first commercially available whisky to be subject to finishing. Invented by Balvenie’s Master Distiller David Steward, finishing involves re-racking the liquid from one cask to another (during the maturation process) to provide a different flavour profile from the secondary cask or, indeed sometimes to reinforce an pre-existing one. The Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood has been matured for 10 years in American Oak (previously holding bourbon) and then finished for an additional 2 years in European Oak which previously held sherry. The intention being to combine the bourbon and sherry flavour profiles during maturation itself, rather than seeking to marry a selection of bourbon casks with sherry casks once maturation is complete. It’s a very common and popular expression so let’s get some tasting notes completed for it.
Nose: Sweet, sour and spicy – a little bit of everything. Oranges and peaches sit alongside honey, vanilla and buttercream. A very light sherry aroma is discernibly, but largely masked at this point with some hefty wood spicing.
Taste: A touch thin and a wee bit boozy at the same time. Quite a malty whisky which favours cask flavours – pepper and a tang of salinity alongside char notes and a slightly bitter sweet chocolate. An interesting earthy nuttiness. A less interesting metallic, almost tin-like quality.
Finish: Fairly short and quite drying with malts and charred cask oak.
You’ll regularly find Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood adorning the shelves of bars all over the world and it’s easy to see why. It’s easy-going yet well-made and is at its heart quintessentially Speyside. It sits nicely among the ranks of go-to ‘introduction whiskies’ that are also solid daily drinkers. At around £35 it’s also good value for money.