May 092015

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:

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

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…



  6 Responses to “Comparing the Two Versions of the 21 Year Old Balvenie PortWood”

  1. nice now u only need to try the 43% version and before u ask i killed mine just now 🙂
    was a fight between spices and oranges with some plums playing around….

  2. It’s very interesting that Balvenie has THREE versions of the Portwood. I’d say Balvenie should get rid of the 40% version and make the 47.6% version available around the world.

  3. […] whisky with a map of individual cask influence. Between the move to the higher ABV 21 year old (see here) and the geekiness going on in the whisky world, perfectly catered to by the new 21, you’d […]

  4. I Think the 47.6 % was made for the tax free marked only, lots of 40% you can still buy but the 47.6% is hard to get. Unfortunately I just drank my last drop of 47.6% and only have the empty bottle as a reminder. Unless there are online stores out there that still have them available, I couldn’t find them, I haven’t save the best for last.

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