Balvenie’s big brother to the 12 year old Doublewood was launched in 2012 to mark the 50th Birthday of their Master Distillery David Stewart. Similarly to the 12 year old (which we’ve reviewed on The Dramble previously), the 17 year old has been matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and then finished in European oak sherry casks. It has been part of the distillery’s core range since its introduction.
The 17 year old Doublewood is matured for an additional five years and increases its ABV over its younger sibling to 43%. Everything tends to move in the same direction so, in no surprised to anyone, this costs more than the 12 year old Doublewood. A lot more in fact - around £90 here in the UK.
Nose: Initially a touch shy, though opening a lot after a little resting and/or agitation – quite relaxed and stylish when ready to go. Orchard fruits – apples, pears – sitting alongside toffee creamy fudge, lemon peels and vanilla. Deeper, there are buttery pastries, golden tobacco, cinnamon and baking spices. A drop or two of water increases the bakery aromas further with tarts, flans and freshly made croissants.
Taste: A very balanced arrival which brings the orchard fruits, but adds some sherry influence in the form of red berries, raisins, chocolate cake, leather and tobacco. A slight pang of citrus keeps everything fresh and not overly saccharine. Cask influence is more discernible now – cinnamon and ginger, but with some sappy fresh American oak. Water smooths the fruits making for quite the juicy affair, but is also highlights woodiness, which to my palate doesn’t quite sit perfectly with the rest of the whisky’s profile.
Finish: Medium in length, and favouring berries, spices and oak.
Balvenie 17 year old offers a subtle, appealing nose and balanced, fruity arrival. But the mid-palate and finish seem to head off in a rather different wood-forward direction that is slightly less to my taste. This whisky has a lot of fans – particularly in wider Europe I believe, but, I’d rather let the underlying Balvenie spirit shine through a bit more, than rely on what feels like very fresh slightly heavy-handed white oak. Solid enough, but I’d personally expect a wee bit more for the £90 ticket price.