One small, lesser know fact is that all Balvenie whisky is peated. Well, at 6 ppm you wouldn’t really call it peated, but the malt does get a few hours of peat smoke exposure. The distillery has two furnaces, and the peat exposure is done at the beginning of the kilning.
That’s not, however, what happened in 2001, when Balvenie distilled a batch of fully peated whisky. Sounds strange? According to sources in the company, Balvenie distills peated whisky for a full week each year. Assuming this began in 2001, and knowing David Stewart’s proclivity for putting out 17 year olds, I’d be on the watch in three years or so for a fully peated Balvenie expression. I will note, however, that this is pure speculation, and I have no concrete information on Balvenie’s plans for that 2% of peated stock slumbering in casks as you read these lines.
When the peated whisky was moved out of those casks, some 17 year old whisky was put into the peated cask. Now this isn’t the first time David Stewart has experimented with using a peated cask for extra maturation, as he already did this in 2003 with the 17 year old IslayCask, but those were Laphroaig casks whereas this is Balvenie through and though. The result, according to Balvenie’s website, was so intensely peated, that it was then married with 17 year old whisky finished in virgin oak to create this expression.
How is it? I think weird is the best word for it. Not bad weird, just weird….
Balvenie 17 Year Old Peated Cask (43% ABV)
Appearance: Amber with thin legs and residue on the glass.
Nose: The combination of the very present Balvenie sweetness and orange nose with some notes of vanilla together with the smoke is strange. This isn’t Islay peat, and there are no medicinal or maritime qualities to it, just smoke. Sweetness and smoke. But there’s enough of the smoke to make this expression, well, weird…
Palate: Some peat and smoke at first in this full bodied dram, then the honey and citrus come through with a light vegetal note (first for a Balvenie for me). Further into the tasting a lovely bitter orange peel note shines through, like the sun appearing from behind clouds…
Linger: Spice and smoke take up residence on your tongue, and the smokiness remains for quite a while, but in a very light way.
This expression is a Balvenie, but it’s not a “normal” Balvenie.
Growing up in the 70s, Happy Days was one of my favorite TV shows. So if the 17 year old Doublewood (reviewed here) is the solid Richie Cunningham, this 17 year old dude is Fonzie. Untamed and wild, but with a heart of gold.