Balvenie’s 15 year old Single Barrel Sherry Cask was launched in 2014, following on from the distillery’s Single Barrel First Fill 12 year old which was unveiled the previous year. To date, there’s been 86 bottlings of this batch produced whisky (according to Whiskybase), each one drawn from a single European oak sherry butt that produces no more than 650 bottles. Being batch produced, no two casks will ever be completely identical, and therefore, the is a reported variation across different batches of this whisky – we’ve certainly experienced some variance in the past. That said, they are all selected by Master Distillery David Steward and bottled at the same ABV of 47.8%.
Our review sample comes from cask #2051 which was one of seven released in 2017.
Nose: Some slightly unexpected feints when initially pouring this – though they dissipate entirely with a short resting period (I’m certain this is just an idiosyncrasy of my sample). Lots of berries - redcurrants, raspberries and blackcurrants – mostly fresh, though with some reduced jamminess also. Deeper aromas of plums and damsons, raisins and toffee are joined by baking spiced and some light wet soil earthiness. In the background, toasted bready and nuttiness - peanuts in fact (unsalted). The addition of water adds some cake elements, and a touch of chocolate. It also further pronounces the berry elements.
Taste: Rich and quite syrupy. Again this is a berry fest - cranberries, strawberries and cream raspberries (raspberry ripple - don’t mind if I do thanks). More on the reduced side of things now – jams, preserves, compotes and sauces. There’s chocolate, cake and toffee here - all rather sweet, all rather tasty. Sweetness is tempered by cask influence which in this instance has some big cinnamon and some light pepper adding bitterness. Water reduces the texture of the fruits from syrupy into a lovely refreshing juiciness, it also takes the edge of the bitter spicing.
Finish: Medium in length, quite drying and with peppery spicing.
As a single cask expression, Balvenie 15 year old will also come with some innate level of batch variance. This particular batch is not the best I’ve tried, nor the worse – there’s oodles of berry fruitiness here, and some good impact from spicing, though personally I found this was at its best with both a short (10 minute) period of resting, and with a few drops of water to take the slightly astringent edge off the cask influence.