Balvenie's 15 Year Single Barrel was a staple of the distillery's lineup for many years, offering a reasonably priced way to taste their lineup subtle variations from cask to cask. This came to an end when it switched from being bourbon single casks to sherry single casks, with roughly a 50% increase in price. To substitute, a new 12 Year Single Barrel expression was introduced, which retained the bourbon cask picks, but explicitly coming from first-fill rather than refill casks, which in theory helped to balance the loss of age with more active casks.
This whisky was aged in a first-fill ex-bourbon cask, then bottled at 47.8% without coloring or chill filtration.
Thanks to PDXWhisky for the sample.
Balvenie 12 Year Single Barrel Cask #12712
Nose: clean malt, berries, citrus, tropical fruit, earthy, caramel, American oak, creamy vanilla. After dilution it becomes simpler, with more assertive toasty oak.
Taste: clean malt sweetness up front, joined by a slowly rising tide of lightly tannic oak towards the back that crests pleasantly in bittersweetness, creamy vanilla in the middle with light floral/berry overtones. After dilution it gains a thicker mouthfeel, but the oak tannins are more prominent.
Finish: balanced malt and oak, floral, berries
While this is not my favorite Balvenie that I've ever had (that title remains firmly held by the Founder's Reserve), it is a perfect example of what Balvenie's malt whisky is at its core: clean, sweet, and balanced. I applaud them for picking casks that are not especially old, but have burned off all of the youthfulness that can afflict whisky of this age. At the same time, apart from the aromas, it remained fairly simple. With more complexity I think this would have gone from a perfectly decent and enjoyable whisky to something more memorable. As is, I'm not particularly inclined to rush out and buy more for myself. There are any number of bourbon cask Speysiders to be had at better prices that will match many of Balvenie's pluses with the addition of a little bit more going on.
13 hours ago