We do not get a lot of visits by whisky brand ambassadors here in Israel: The market is quite small, and we’re not exactly located at the centre of the whisky universe. So, when an ambassador does visit, it’s really a treat to be able to take place in a real whisky event, which are quite scarce in our neck of the woods.
Needless to say I was extremely happy to be able to participate in such a tasting organized by the Israeli importer of The Balvenie (which is one of my all time favourite distilleries – but you already know that, don’t you?) , Hakerem (thank you guys for the invite by the way). The event was well organized and took place at the “Zman Amiti (Real Time)” Alcohol academy. It was really nice meeting Jonny Cornthwaite the Balvenie Ambassador (and finally put a face on the twitter handle I’ve been following and exchanging views and whisky geekery for the past months), who was leading the tasting. We got to chat a bit before the tasting started (I arrived in time, but many others arrived fashionably late – say an hour late…). We were about to taste 4 different expressions that are available here, sadly nothing of the new Single Casks (sherry 15, or 12) or any of the Tuns (1509 or 1401 RIP), since they are not imported here due to very small allocations to the Israeli market (Hope that Changes soon – Drink more Balvenie Guys – so we get more stuff..).
In terms of organization, It was indeed a really well organized event, professional, with nosing glasses, a very nice buffet to start with so we have our stomachs full of food and can taste some whisky, and also some pretty nice cocktails prepared with Grants sherry cask blended whisky (I tried a few, which were not bad).
We started the tasting where every tasting should begin, if you’re interested in getting to know the distillery really well – the new make, where it all begins.
Nose: lovely and quit yeasty, with some hints of apple peel, apple pie, with sweet dough, nutty too. Sweet and lovely. I just love the smell of new make, and this is high quality stuff.
Palate: Quite heavy, banana bread, sugar and apple strudel.
Finish: Sweet and peppery, with apple pie.
A really enjoyable new make, especially the nose which is just brilliant.
After a brief presentation for those who are not familiar with the process of making whiskies, we continued to sample the whiskies , starting with the 12 yo Doublewood. iJonny mentioned that this is a great dram ( I have to agree) and that whenever he goes to present it, a lot of people tell him this was THE whisky that started their love story with single malts. This is quite cool, since this indeed was the whisky that ignited my passion for whisky and for single malts in particular. Later when sitting down with Jonny for a nice chat, I mentioned that. Funny, but true.
Since I’ve reviewed the 12 Double wood (here) I wont get into tasting notes, but this is a really tasty, approhable and yummy whisky. I urge every whisky fan to try this one if you have not already done that, It’s a bottle I will ALWAYS have open in my bar, and enjoy it quite often when I’m feeling like drinking something familiar and nice.
We moved on to the 17 year old Doublewood, a recent edition that I’ve tasted and really liked too (got a bottle too of that – I seem to own quite a but of Bavenies!). The 17 DW is really a step up from the 12, it’s one hell of a dram, just great. (tasting notes here). The next whisky was the 21 Port Finish, I’ve tasted before but never reviewed, so that was a good excuse to start sniffing, and dissecting, one of the best Balvenies in the Affordable Core range (under 30 years old i mean).
Nose: This is a brilliant nose my friends, best of the evening, with lots of wood, It really feels 21 and in a good way, if you’re a fan of the old wood profile (I love it). Lots of Ripe fruit, quite thick, coconut and red fruit galore, with a nice spiciness too.
Palate: Thick and full of Cherries in liquor, chocolate, spices, spicy wood. Chewable stuff, but creamy too, with some buttery notes as well as heaps of red fruit, and raisins goodness. Packed with flavour.
Finish: Pepper, red fruit jam and Kirsch.
A superb drop. Really up there in terms of palate, body and complexity, thick and a great XMAS dram if there was ever one. I love this dram, even at 40%. (some releases are bottled at higher abv).
We finished the regular tasting with the 17 year old peated cask , which was great too. It’s been a while since I’ve had some of that, and What I learned is that that Balvenie are distilling peated malt one week a year after XMAS, and aging the liquid, which has not been released yet (but might be released sometime). This expressions is aged in casks that previously held that whisky, and not casks sourced from other distilleries as I’ve preiocusly thought. You can check out my notes from a few years back for this one Here.
The tasting has ended, but we (me, Yoav and Micheal) sat down with Jonny for a private tasting of some special stuff. We started by sampling the 23 year old Kininvie batch II (I’ve reviewed it here) which is lovely, as well as the Girvan 25 year old Patent still (notes here). The conversation was really nice, and Jonny a real nice guy, took out the last surprise he had up his sleeve, a sample of the 40 year old Balvenie. Oh yea. Now, I loved the 30 year old I tasted a few months back (Notes here), so the 40 year old, was a dream come true, sort of, at about £2475, it’s not a whisky I am likely to buy, but I wish i could do that (without getting a divorce i mean). I sat down to write some proper notes.
Nose: OMG. This is a HUGE nose. You get the old wood benches, and library shelves which I just love (and you get only from 30+ well aged whiskies), It’s also dusty and old, with Blackcurrant jam, whiffs of smoke, quite a bit of butterscotch, Eucalyptus which balanced out the sweet notes, with more savoury ones, also some mushrooms. There’s some old sherry notes, but also quite a bit of ex-bourbon notes, in the form of spice and coconut. Brilliant. You can sniff this for hours. Perfume.
Palate: Deeply sherried, but not a sherry bomb, the old sherry is noticeable, you get a lot of those Maraschino cherries, pepper, mushrooms and also a hint of smoke. On the second wave of sensations you get a hint of XMAS cake, and coconut, and again wood varnish.
Finish: Sherry, Cherry Marmalade, butterscotch and more dry sherry.
This is the stuff dreams are made of, a really stunning dram. It’s not cheap (who am i kidding, it’s insanely expensive), But it’s pure gold. 96/100, Have not had one like that in a while. and rightly so. I wish I could sit longer and sniff this for hours. I am not sure which Batch this one was since there was not much information on the label of the sample bottle (see image above).
It was a brillaint afternoon, which ended with a BOOM with the 40 year old, but the entire range was lovely, and the event was organized perfectly. I’d like to thank “Hakerem” for inviting me and hosting this great whisky event. May there be many more.