Comparing the Two Versions of the 21 Year Old Balvenie PortWood

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 comments on “Comparing the Two Versions of the 21 Year Old Balvenie PortWood
  1. manny says:

    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. EricH says:

    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. Ron S says:

    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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