The Balvenie is the whisky geeks’ connection with the Grant company family of distilleries. There’s a chance we’d connect even more with Kininvie, but I don’t know anybody who actually had a 700 ml bottle in their collection, although there must be some of them out there. I did taste some in a Grant’s blending masterclass I took, but not enough to consider an official tasting worth writing about.
The Balvenie’s Malt Master, David Stewart, is one of the most respected names in the industry, and he’s dedicated the past few years to working full time in the Balvenie distillery, after handing the helm at Glenfiddich to Brian Kinsman in 2009. The distillery is renowned for quality and innovation (still sparring with Glenmorangie over the bragging rights for inventing whisky finishing in barrels other than those in which the whisky was aged), and indeed, I have rarely tasted a Balvenie I didn’t like.
This particular expression is no exception and held its own very well in a tasting lineup which included other 21+ year olds from other distilleries. Yet, it would have benefited both from a higher ABV and from not being chill filtered. Such a version exists, as pictured on right, but sadly this is not the one I tasted. While being a dram good whisky, it could benefit from a higher ABV, while chill filtration should be completely abolished in the industry in single malts.
The Balvenie PortWood 21 (40% ABV)
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.
I hope to come across the “real” PortWood 21, and that would merit another OQD posting…