I reviewed the standard 40% ABV 21 year old PortWood Balvenie here, and bemoaned the craft presentation of the crown jewel in the Balvenie core range both chill filtered and in a low ABV. I mentioned that a new version presented at 47.6% ABV with no chill filtration, and hoped that I would get a sample to try. My friend Yori covered that corner for me, and I tasted this expression, presented, at least on paper, like I would have expected a craft operation like Balvenie to do it in the first place.
The result, by the way, is intense!
I’ll first paste the original 40% tasting notes:
The Balvenie PortWood 21 (40% ABV) – Original Style
Color: Mahogany, thin legs.
Nose: Dried fruit (raisns, prunes and apricots, notes of dried pineapple and papaya), coconut, toffee, damp earthy wood. There’s a lot of Port sweetness on this nose.
Taste: Smooth and full bodied, fresh and tropical fruit, spices, coffee, sweet wine.
Finish: Long and balanced, spice lingers after the sweetness is gone.
Compared with the new style:
The Balvenie PortWood 21 (47.6% ABV, NCF)
Color: Deep Bronze, thin legs running down slowly.
Nose: Intense orange sweetness, pepper and cinnamon, an old dusty book, damp earth, light fried banana, port sweetness and a touch of dried apricot. The dried fruit are much less pronounced in this expression and the nose has an intensity that the older version lacks.
Taste: Sweet honey, but from some exotic flowers, powerful oranges with intense spices, both of which intensify over time. This expression has a slight dryness and a hint of a bitter note. The whisky is thick and chewy.
Finish: The port shows up here as tannins on the inside of the cheeks. Spice lingers in the back of the throat with a strong citrus sweetness down the tongue.
WOW! This version is intense.
You can tell it’s the same dram, but the chill filtration on the 40% version definitely lost some of the intensity, and it shifted the dram markedly in the fruity direction. The nose here felt older, with less dried fruit and a lot more “Balvenie orange”, the mouthfeel is more viscous and full bodied and the finish is nothing short of glorious. Simply outstanding linger!
I shouldn’t say anything further at this point about chill filtration and bottling practices, because all that would come out now is a plea to the SWA to outlaw chill filtration, coloring and bottling single malt scotch whisky at under 46%.
Maybe I just did…