Dufftown

Review: Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
15 Years; Various Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This whisky is quite unique as it is aged via a “solera” process, used frequently in sherry, where you have a big solera vat (in the case of glenfiddich, made of oregon pine) where the distillers add in new aged whisky before they remove some – and the vat is always kept at least half full. Thus, you add whisky, and remove some – but the whisky you remove contains bits of whiskies as old as the vat itself, resulting in a mix of whiskies from the most recent filling to much older fillings.

In order to fill up the solera vat, whiskies aged in sherry casks are vatted together, and whiskies aged in new oak are also vatted together. The contents are then mixed with more whiskies, this time from refill casks , and this is all added into the solera vat (which has a capacity of 37,000 litres). The whisky is then allowed to rest for a few days before 50% of the vat is emptied to produce a bottled batch of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old. It’s quite the process – but it does produce something quite unique – a blend of batches from the current year and dating back even to the start of the vat, and each year in between.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

This is quite a bit different than the 12 year old – it’s busier, spicier, and once the nose opens up is quite an incredible dram.

Nose: Apple and pear definitely come through, though the apple is more like a golden delicious than the green apple found in the 12 Year Old. Some cinnamon and vanilla come through, with honey, maple, apricot jam, marmelade, alongside dried apricot, raisins, and prunes, and some rich malt. At first I find the nose a bit dense, but it starts to open up and unfold brilliantly with time. Vanilla and apple just come out more and more as it sits.

Taste: Malt, with some apple and cinnamon and vanilla on the finish. It’s quite dense – there’s a lot going on. There is some sweet honey underneath, and there is a slightly grassy character alongside the malt with the spice riding over top of it all. I get a slight bit of spicy earthiness in the background, as if from peat, as I find with all the glenfiddich expressions…and there’s some milk chocolate on the finish. There is a great richness to this as well, and the balance is great. The mouthfeel is great in this one.

Finish: A bit fruity and spicy, with apple, vanilla and some lovely honey. Definitely longer and busier than in the 12 year old. There’s some oak and plum jam as well. Slightly dry.

This is rich, complex, and bold (at least in the Glenfiddich range). The balance of the nose, taste, and finish is good, and overall this is a very engaging whisky, especially after some time in the glass when it starts to open up and move from dense and bold to creamy and honeyed.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $77.


Review: Balvenie 12 Year Old Signature Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years; Oloroso Sherry Casks, First Fill Bourbon Barrels, Refill Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balvenie (Dufftown, Scotland)

It is quite remarkable how quickly the whisky world is changing, with brands releasing more and more “no-age-statement” whiskies and getting rid of or limiting their other stock. With whisky consumers broadly running after all things new, it is amazing how many new releases are coming out of distilleries that have been producing more or less the same line of products for many years.

This whisky is now out of regular production (though it was released in separate batches), though part of their core range in 2013 – there is now a Balvenie triple cask which is the same age and uses the same casks. This whisky is matured in three separate casks: oloroso sherry butts which typically impart dried fruit and spice, fresh bourbon barrels which tend to add vanilla and honey, and refill barrels (i.e. barrels the Balvenie has already used before) which really help to enforce distillery character. Originally, the signature brand was developed to celebrate David Stewart’s 45 years in the Scotch whisky industry, and each cask was hand selected by him.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: White grape, dried apricot, peaches, vanila, a good dose of floral honey, and oak easily come out at first. The sherry is lightly present as well, and incredibly well integrated into the whisky amidst the floral honey and malt background. As I sits, I notice more dried fruit aromas along the lines of dried apricot and prunes along with creamy toffee. Light, yet still quite rich.

Taste: White grape juice, lots of malt, raisins, with a nice wave at the end of vanilla-laden oak carrying it through to the finish where some spices start to emerge along with a resurgence of barley. There is a multitude of other things as well, from coconut to apricot to various manifestations of barley. Initially I was a little disappointed with the simplicity on the palate – but as I drank more the complexity combined with the drinkability was quite incredible. There is a lightly tannic woodiness present as well which I find often in the Balvenie, but which I am still seeking good words to describe…also this is balanced well enough with the right mix to just allow it to slip down a little too easily. Well done.

Finish: Clove, honey, white pepper, and raisins with some very slight tannins and drying of the mouth and the lightest note of bitterness. At times the pepper combined with the dryness produce a light and empty spicy edge, which doesn’t really do it too many favors. But, as indicated by my score – this is still quite nice.

This is a nice example, in my view, of good integration of various casks with the spirit which is being used. It’s too bad that the taste was a bit simple after a beautifully integrated nose. With Balvenie’s, I find, the complexity from the spirit takes some time to develop at which time with the older expressions you get incredibly brooding malts. These take their good time to fully make themselves known in the glass (if you are willing to afford them) but playing with the casks this way at a younger age certainly helps do that trick quite well. In this one, the sherry cask seems to have the most say.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average based on $80.


Review: Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel (Sherry Cask) Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
47.8%
Aging
15 Years; Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balvenie (Dufftown, Scotland)

Another Balvenie single barrel, again non-chill filtered and released at a nice 47.8%.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A lot of licorice alongside some oak, apple, and dried tropical fruit chutney (dried papaya, mango, alongside some cinnamon and clove), mangosteen, and some lighter apple. It’s a lot of licorice – I don’t like licorice bombs very much. And some nice sherry tones – with some of that sherry spiciness and fruitiness. Quite complex on that nose…the palate is full of licorice, dark chocolate chips, anise, honey, malt, licorice, and some buttery oak. Finishes with spice and vanilla – quite creamy, in fact, and the balance is good between the oak, the malt that emerges, the cinnamon and clove, and the pear. I like the finish more than the other elements here. And terrific spice. The nose, for me, is too licorice laden and I don’t love it- but the rest is quite enjoyable. If for a bit less licorice on the nose, this one would be rated even higher. Great strength for this whisky.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $183.


Review: Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel (First Fill Bourbon) Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
47.8%
Aging
12 Years; First Fill Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balvenie (Dufftown, Scotland)

One of the more highly acclaimed Balvenies from their core range - matured wholly in first fill bourbon casks for 12 years, and then being released with no chill-filtering and a higher alcohol percentage (47.8%) than the rest of their core range. Each barrel yields less than 300 bottles, resulting in batches which consist of less than 300 bottles.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose certainly shows bourbon! Oak, tropical fruit- dried mango, passionfruit – raisins, pear, cinnamon, clove, and some buttery custard, banana cream pie – along with some sour corn, almost like a sour bourbon. A bit confectionary -  even more so as it sits. The palate shows more tropical fruit, a lot of pear, watermelon, and a nice underlaying of fruitcake spices, though without the dried fruit. The finish is fairly sweet and a touch tannic, and is sweet and creamy – with some nice malt, honey, hay, green tea, and tingly spice. The tannins give a bit of dry-ness on the finish which I quite appreciate. The ABV of this is very nice – I think it might be rather sweet and flat otherwise.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $155. I should note that the Balvenie has had a price explosion here in Canada, with this bottling going from $125 to $155 in a short few months. At $125, the value score of this whisky is 25/100


Review: Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years; Refill and First-Fill Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balvenie (Dufftown, Scotland)

The base of the Balvenie range, being matured in 2 casks and aged for 12 years...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Easy and soft on the nose, with vanilla, pear, honey, and a good dose of malt. There is a bit of tropical fruit as well – passionfruit. Some brown sugar, cookie dough, white raisins. Smells, and tastes, a touch sour. There’s not a huge sherry influence – otherwise, from time to time, a bit of sherry funkiness. The taste is buttery, full of malt, with some grassy spiciness and honey as well. The finish is full of malt, honey, and vanilla.

This is a fairly simple, but very easy and approachable malt. I also find that, on a clean palate, I enjoy this more – it can tend to become a bit dense and woody if this follows a lot of bigger whisky or cocktails.

Value: Low to Average, at $90. A number of people really like this but it’s never quite stood out to me enough.