A Speyside classic
The Balvenie distillery is located in the famous whisky town of Dufftown in the heart of the Speyside region of Scotland. It is one of the largest and most famous scotch whisky distilleries in Scotland with an annual production level of 5.5 million litres. Balvenie is still owned by the original founders, the innovative William Grant & Sons, and it was built in 1892 to help their other overworked distillery at Glenfiddich. Balvenie is actually next door to Glenfiddich and is a unique distillery. They have their own floor maltings (a room used for the germination of the barley), a cooperage where they construct casks and they even grow some of the barley used in the distillery grounds. Most of these processes are carried out by external companies in the modern whisky industry.
A new exclusive whisky
Each year over 1.5 million bottles of Balvenie are sold across the world, putting it well inside the top 10 for total sales. All aspects of the Balvenie brand - its popularity and core range - continues to grow. The core range currently includes two 12 year olds (one called Doublewood and the other called Signature), a 15 years old from a single barrel, a 21 years old which has been part matured in a Port wine cask and a 30 years old. Other limited editions appear regularly and they also have some whiskies bottled exclusively for the duty free travel market, such as this Golden Cask. The Golden Cask is bottled at 14 years of age and has been part matured in Caribbean rum casks. It was released in February this years, has an alcohol strength of 47.5% ABV and is available in travel retail only. A bottle will cost £40-45, depending on where you find it.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this Golden Cask is a honey gold and the nose is fresh, perfumed and vibrant with plenty of captivating aromas - cereal grains, obvious vanilla, dried fruits (think of pear and something tropical, like mango), honey, coconut and a citrus-like edge (imagine orange zest or orange oil). The combination of aromas is excellent and tempting, making you want to just sit and sniff the whisky for ever. On the palate, this is fresh, juicy, sweet and intense. There is again obvious vanilla, oak, cereal grains and sweet honey. These are backed up by some more subtle elements such as orange zest, sandalwood and crumbly brown sugar, with some increasingly potent wood spices coming through towards the end (imagine nutmeg and cinnamon). The finish is again intense and begins sweetly (especially the vanilla and honey) before becoming much drier and spicier with lots of those wood spices and oak coming through.
What's the verdict?
Simple - this Golden Cask is a delicious whisky. It has a lovely balance throughout, especially when you consider the higher strength. The whisky mixes vibrant, fresh, sweet elements with more subtle, understated and spicy notes. This excellent balance means that it doesn't feel like it needs any addition of water - we tried it with water and it becomes a little sweeter, creamier and less spicy. Golden Cask is one of the best new whiskies of the year that we have tried to date and offers great value for money, which makes it a no-brainer next time you go through an airport.