When the topic of “go-to” whiskies is discussed, The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 is the whisky that shows up on many people’s lists. Well balanced and easy drinking, this is a whisky that I always consider giving as a gift, and it’s also one that I would be happy to accept as one. At $50, it’s an exceptional value. Limpd likes to call the DoubleWood 12 a “table whisky”, i.e. one to keep on hand that just about any whisky drinker will enjoy.
In October of this year, The Balvenie released a 17 year old version of the DoubleWood. It retails for around $130. At almost two and a half times the price, I can’t helping asking myself the following question: Is the DoubleWood 17 really that much better than the DoubleWood 12?
Before we get on with the review, here is what The Balvenie has to say about their DoubleWood 17:
Aged in American oak barrels and finished in European oak sherry casks with an abv of 43%, the new release is described as being more complex and rich than its younger sibling, having “deeper vanilla notes, hints of green apple and creamy toffee” flavours.
Stewart said: “Wherever I travel in the world, DoubleWood 12 Year Old is the expression that people are most likely to have enjoyed. It is also one of the whiskies I am most proud of when I look back over my 50 years at the distillery, which is why it has been so exciting to create this new older version.”
The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Old marks the completion of the distillery’s “clear consumer ladder”, which uses age statements and wood finishes as a consumer guide to flavour.
“In completing the new core range of The Balvenie, we have an engaging and exciting collection of malts both for those starting out on their journey of whisky discovery and for connoisseurs alike,” said Andrew Forrester, The Balvenie UK brand ambassador.
And now for our impressions of this new expression from The Balvenie…
G-LO’s Tasting Notes
- Appearance: Deep amber color.
- Aroma: Sweet and spicy on the nose. Peach preserves. Vanilla. Cinnamon. Allspice. Honey. Oatmeal raisin cookie.
- Taste: Very light mouthfeel with all of the flavors concentrated on the middle of my tongue. The baking spices in the nose are front and center with a moderate cinnamon heat warming your mouth. After a few seconds, vanilla and light brown sugar make an appearance and carry you to a warm, medium finish.
- ABV: 43%
Conclusion: What little roughness that was in the 12 year old (not that there is any real roughness in the 12) has been thoroughly removed. The DoubleWood 17 is incredibly smooth and easy drinking. I also found the DoubleWood 17 to be a good bit dryer than the DoubleWood 12 (I’m guessing that’s because of the 5 extra years spent in the barrel). While it’s definitely worth trying, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I don’t think I’d drop $130 on it. I’d rather go for the BIG splurge and pick up a bottle of the Tun 1401 Batch #3 (currently available for $260 in Pennsylvania). I wonder if I would have come to a different conclusion about this whisky if it were bottled at cask strength.
Limpd’s Tasting Notes
As an aside, G-LO gave me a share of the spoils, and I compared the 17 to a bit of the 12 that I just happened to have on hand (wasn’t that fortuitous!). I found G-LO’s review of the 17 to be spot on.
When compared to the 12, the color is two shades deeper, and all of the astringent, Band-Aids and rubber in the aroma of the 12 is replaced with heightened notes of vanilla, butterscotch, and maybe a little English toffee. The 12 has a little more bite on the tongue, a little more cinnamon mid-palate, and is far more warming in the long lingering finish. The 17 on the other hand, had flavors that were very well balanced and unbelievably smooth. There was a sweetness, followed by a pleasant cinnamon spice, and just the slightest warming heat at the finish.
I found the 17 to be a very drinkable and very enjoyable whisky. I think I might like the power of the 12 a little better, but given more time with the 17, I think I might become more of a fan. Of course, as the Doublewood 17 is at least the 11th Balvenie that I’ve tried (along with the DoubleWood 12, the Caribbean Cask 14, the Golden Cask 14, the Single Barrel 15, the RumCask 17, the Madeira Cask 17, the Peated Cask 17, the PortWood 21, the Single Barrel 25, and the Tun 1401 Batch #3), I’m not sure I can be much more of fan. The picture below shows the 12 and the 17 side-by-side. Can you tell one from the other?