Whiskey Review: Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

By Joe Micallef / December 22, 2015

The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 YearsWilliam Grant founded the Balvenie distillery in 1892. It was his first distillery, and would prove to be the foundation of the William Grant & Sons whisky empire. Located in Dufftown, Balvenie is a quintessential Speyside malt producing a light whisky with pronounced floral aromas.

The distillery is one of only six distilleries in Scotland that still operates their own malting floor and malt kiln. They can only produce, however, about 10% to 15% of their malt needs. The balance is sourced from commercial malt suppliers. The kiln uses a combination of coal and peat to dry the malted barley, imparting a very slight smoky note to the resulting whisky. Preference is given to locally produced barley. Balvenie operates eleven stills—six wash stills and five spirit stills—and has an annual capacity of 5.6 million liters of pure alcohol.

The Balvenie was among the first whisky producers to experiment with “finishing” malt whisky in casks that had previously held other liquids, including port, sherry, Madeira, and a variety of rum casks from Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean. The DoubleWood range features whiskies that have been aged in first- or second fill ex-bourbon casks for approximately 11 years, and then finished in a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask for up to a year.

Another interesting feature of the Balvenie distillery is that it is adjacent to the larger and better-known Glenfiddich distillery. In fact they are “siblings,” as both are owned by Grant. Each distillery uses the same water source, the crystal clear Robbie Dhu Spring in the Conval Hills, yet they produce completely different whiskies.

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Tasting Notes:

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old has a light mahogany, amber color. On the nose there are pronounced floral aromas of heather and white flowers, followed by aromas of dried apricot and nectarine. There is a distinctive, sweetish, honeyed note with wood spice and vanilla as well as slight notes of wood wax/furniture polish in the background, with just a hint of peat smoke.

On the palate, the whisky is dry with a slight hint of pepper. The mouth feel is creamy in texture, with notes of caramel, vanilla spiced custard, and fresh baked brioche. The oak influence is clearly evident in the noticeable vanilla and cinnamon notes, while the Oloroso sherry finish provides flavors of dried stone fruit and a hint of prunes, as well as almond and marzipan. The alcohol is warming and nicely integrated, even though it is slightly over standard proof at 43% ABV.

The finish is silky and medium-to-long, with a lingering honeyed flavor of caramel and vanilla set against a background of dried fruit. It is not particularly complex, but the sweet notes and the warming alcohol combine to create a very satisfying, almost Cognac-like, finish. This is a whisky to sip on a warm winter day in front of the fireplace.


At an average price of about $50 per bottle, this is an excellent whisky, with just enough sherry cask influence to add complexity and a comfortable sweet note, but with enough restraint to avoid becoming a cooked, fruit-laden sherry bomb.


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