Head to Head Tasting #2: Bals Out

Having done a horizontal tasting of 12 y/o Speyside (and one Japanese) malts a couple days ago, today I’m doing a vertical one.  The distillery today is Balvenie, and I will be sampling three of their expressions.  These head to head tasting are, by their nature, quick and impressionistic, but I find that rattling off impressions keeps me from overthinking.

1)      Doublewood (12 y/o)

2)      Single Barrel (15 y/o)

3)      Portwood (21 y/o)


1)      Light amber

2)      Shiny Copper

3)      Slightly darker, copper penny


1)      Fresh, malty, buttermilk, crème brulee, vanilla

2)      Rich caramel, toffee

3)      Strawberry, Valencia orange, fruit punch


1)      Sweet, bourbon, hint of spice, heavy cream

2)      Saltwater taffy, spice, toffee, bigger bourbon influence, butter cream icing

3)      Strawberry shortcake


1)      Light, wood, sweet, vanilla bean, then burn

2)      Rich, wood, vanilla, long and slow, clings to the tongue

3)      Very long, woody and slightly fruity finish.

Parting Words

1)      Comparatively dry, but still rich, and creamy.  The vanilla and bourbon influences are balanced with a stately sweetness

2)      Rich, sweet and carmely.  Big, bold after dinner malt

3)      Bigger, bolder after dinner malt.  Practically a dessert drink, like the former occupant of its cask.  The port and wood overwhelm the malt.  The dry fruit, coming through strongly as strawberry right now, is interesting, but could get old pretty quick.  Still, in moderation, a very enjoyable dram.

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