Balvenie’s popular 14 year old Caribbean Cask spends most of its life in ex-bourbon casks before being re-racked for a finishing period (of around 6 months) in ex-rum casks. Whilst the name ‘Caribbean’ conjures up images of palm trees and beaches, the actual rum casks used by Balvenie are custom ones from UK-based Bristol spirits. ‘Avon Cask’ just didn’t have the same ring to it I imagine.
The Carribean Cask is not Balvenie’s first foray into rum finishing - Balvenie 14 year old Golden Cask was available in travel retail some years ago – a similar finish (though using golden rum) and a higher ABV of 47.5% Likewise, Balvenie 14 year old Rum Wood was created as a single batch release from casks held in the distillery’s warehouse 29.
The 14 year old Carribean Cask has been a mainstay in the distillery’s core range for some years now. It’s bottled at 43% ABV and can be picked up at a variety of supermarkets here in the UK –sometimes at a particularly good price.
Nose: Opening sweetly with aromas of toffee, brown sugar, honey and vanilla, this also presents some tropical fruitiness – pineapples and guavas – alongside raisins (which might be rum-soaked) and gentle spicing from ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. The addition of water adds some orchard fruits in the form of apples and pears as well as some creamy bakery puff pastries.
Taste: A sweet arrival with a solid mouthfeel. Toffee apples, honey, vanilla and oakiness are tempered by fruitiness – starting with fresh berries, but moving quickly down a more tropical path with overripe bananas, mangos, pineapples and guavas. There’s certainly some rum-like flavour here, though more white (party) rum than deep rich and dark molasses heavy rum. Spicing can be felt in the middle and back palate and is fairly pronounced – black pepper – but with some chilli pepper, light salinity and cinnamon. Water brings out some maltiness and allows a touch of natural earthiness to shine through.
Finish: Medium in length with some slight oak astringency and a mix of sugars, malts and pepper spicing.
Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask is a popular whisky in many countries and it’s easy to see why – it’s well made, tasty and with a good interplay between sweetness and spicing. It’s perhaps not quite as rum-driven as you might envisage (or might have experienced with other rum cask matured whiskies), but is nevertheless a tasty, commonly available expression.