The Balvenie “Triple Cask” 12 Year Old Whisky – Hitting the sweet-spot ?

I’ve occasionally imagine myself as a whisky blogger, fêted by the whisky-makers, reviewing a seemingly endless supply of free whiskies, sent by grateful distilleries eager to announce their latest “walnut-cask finish” whisky to the world . Sadly it ain’t going to happen. In part because there are already a number of blogs already occupying this role, but also because I find it incredibly hard to write about whisky. There is a established formula for whisky reviews describing the Colour, Nose, Taste, Finish. Filling out these tags there is sadly only a limited language to describe the nuances of whisky. Once you’ve used the adjectives vanilla, honeyed, apricot, chocolate, fruit-cake, marmalade and christmas pudding you have to either recycle these or wander off-topic into a slightly surreal world. One day, when no-one is watching,  I’ll try to slip in a review that goes:

Colour: Dehydrated Cats urine orange.

Nose: Oak shaving mingled with a whiff of camp-fire-cooked sausages. Hints of Shetland Pony.

Taste: A sweet elixir formed from the teardrops of Mermaids followed by a subtle hint of  South Pacific Volcanic ash.

Finish: Long and Wide, like a Longboat-full of sweaty Vikings returning home after  pillaging the Monasteries of Northumbria.

OK, that was a bit off-topic. Back to the task in hand. For my birthday this year I received a bottle of Balvenie Triple Cask 12 Year Old. The Triple Cask here refers to the fact that the Whisky is matured in three different types of barrel, namely first-fill bourbon barrels, refilled ex-whisky barrels and old European-oak ex-Oloroso sherry butts. “Normal” whisky is normally only matured in old bourbon barrels (apparently bourbon barrels can only be used once, after which the get sold on to whisky distillers.) Using other  types of barrels adds different “notes” to the whisky and is referred to as “finishing” … because the whisky is normally finished in these barrels and then sold. Finishing whisky is now quite a trend in the whisky industry, with Balvenie being one of the leaders in this process. Overall they have a good reputation in the whisky field, in part because their whisky making is in the hands of “Malt Master” David Stewart, a 50-year veteran of the whisky industry.

Going back to our Triple-Cask whisky  the finishing process is designed to add flavours to our aged whisky. The new-fill barrels add sharp tannins, the refill whisky barrels are less strong and add a little richness and a roundness to the whisky, whilst the Oloroso-sherry butts add a sweetness to the whisky. On top of this the whisky is also left a further 6 months in marrying tuns to allow the whisky to integrate.

Now for the bad news. The 12 Year Old Triple-Cask is part of a range of whiskys (along with a 16-year and a 25-year) which are made “Exclusively for Travel Retail”. I’m not sure what scenario the words “Travel Retail” conjure up in your head, but to me it implies an average product, sold at inflated prices to a captive audience. So why the heck would I buy it ? Well there are two good things about “Travel Retail”. Firstly when you buy it you are normally getting a litre of the good stuff, rather than 700 ml and secondly, and most importantly, Mrs LearnaLittle works for an airline and we therefore have access to their staff shop. (I should add a third point here, we had a 10% off voucher and I will willingly sell my first-born child for such vouchers…). So now I think I should really get on with the review.

Colour: Rich dark amber.

Nose: Strangely sweet for a whisky, probably best described as Toffee.

Taste: Again very sweet,oranges, almost lemony, hint of chocolate.

Finish: Short and spicy, Cloves or maybe Nutmeg.

 Bottom Line: (4 out of 5) A great sweet whisky. However (and I WILL start a sentence with however, even though it’s grammatically incorrect !) I’m a bit caught in two minds, if you can find this whisky at a reasonable price it’s an incredibly pleasant tipple. There’s really nothing to dislike about this whisky, but I’m still having trouble getting excited about this whisky. It’s not as exciting for me as, say, an anCnoc. Since I’m publishing this posting on Valentine’s Day I’ll leave you with the words that, sadly, quiet a few people may be hearing today… “I like you, but I don’t love you”.

This entry was posted in Balvenie 12 Year-old Triple-Cask, Whisky, Whisky Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Balvenie “Triple Cask” 12 Year Old Whisky – Hitting the sweet-spot ?

  1. I’m a bit the same about the triple cask. While I enjoy it, it’s not one that makes me jump up and down with excitement. I definitely prefer the doublewood out of the two options.
    Also, I loved the spoof whisky review – I think there should be more reviews like that!
    Keep on waffling,

  2. Evan says:

    Hi there. I’ve just returned from a trip to Asia and purchased Balvenie’s 12 year 1L Triple Cask (matured in sherry, bourbon and oak casks) for around US66. I had also gotten a brand new 12 year 750ml DoubleWood (matured in sherry and oak casts) purchased from BevMo (in CA) for US$44a chance. So I sat down to compare them. I’m new to Scotch (these are my 3rd and 4th bottles). They taste and smell very similar. but the DoubleWood has a very slight darker color (half a shade darker) and a bite that brings out the aroma quite a bit more that is not evident in the Triple Cask. Anyway, both are good purchases and better than 10 or 12 year old Glenfiddich or Macallan, in my opinion.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for your comments, it’s always interesting other people’s reaction to a whisky. I must admit it’s a while since I tried a Balvinie, although it sounds like I should get hold of the Doublewood sometime. If you haven’t already tried any of the Glendronach range can I suggest you may find that worthwhile.

  3. Nate says:

    I just returned from a trip to Taiwan where Scotch flows like water. I always like to grab a few bottles as there doesn’t seem to be any taxes on the stuff there where good blends and a few single malts are always available at the 7-Eleven.

    Anyway, I’ve been a huge 12 Doublewood fan for several years now, and saw a 1L bottle of 12 Triple Cask for around $61 ($1800NTD) so I grabbed it along with a 700mL of Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique which is what I went into the store looking for after having a glass at a craft beer stand in a night market in Taipei (long story).

    Anyway, I’m super familiar with Balvinie 12 Doublewood and expected something similar, but the Triple Cask seems, a little hot and nothing stands out. Honestly, it reminds me of a middle-of-the-road VSOP cognac more than a whisky. Easy drinking, nothing spectacular. I probably wouldn’t buy it again, unless it was under $50.

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