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Whisky Under £50 Review 20: Balvenie 12 Year Old

Welcome to the next instalment of our regular Whisky Under Fifty reviews, where we review a different whisky (or whiskey) that you can buy for less than £50! If you’d like to know more about why we're doing this series, read our introduction post here.

In this edition of Whisky Under Fifty, we're looking at one of my favourite Speyside distilleries, The Balvenie.

Balvenie is part of the William Grant family and was established by the Mr Grant back in 1892. Its just a stones-throw from another mainstay of the William Grant group, Glenfiddich. Just a short five minute walk between the two, winding one's way through the grounds of Glenfiddich, past the warehouses and bottling facitlities, down a road past some fields, and you've arrived at The Balvenie.

Its one of the few distilleries which still complete the full end-to-end process of whisky making on-site, from malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling, maturing, and bottling. Balvenie are understandably proud of this, putting this craftsmanship and heritage is centre-stage.

Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood

I'm a big fan of many of Balvenie's releases (Carribean Cask 14 Year Old anyone?). But for this Whisky Under £50 review I'm going to focus on one of their excellent, core, releases: Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood.

When it first launched way back in 1992 it was a rather innovative release that used a second cask maturation to layer further flavours into the whisky: finishing. Over the decades, the process of finishing has become a key tool in a whiskymaker's toolkit for building flavour, and this was one of the first mainstream whiskies to showcase the approach.

Balvenie's single malt is first aged in traditional ex-bourbon barrels, which give the spirit notes of vanilla and warming spice. It is then re-racked (the technical term for decanting it from one barrel and filling it into another) into a second cask, in this case an ex-sherry cask. These casks will add further complexity to the whisky with notes of fruit and honey. Finally, the batch of casks are then all poured into very large wooden barrels called 'tuns' to allow the whiskies from the individual casks to 'marry' (the technical term for 'come together').

Tasting notes

Nose: Sweet fruit and oloroso sherry notes, layered with honey and vanilla.

Palate: Smooth and mellow with beautifully combined flavours – nutty sweetness, cinnamon spiciness and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry.

Finish: Long and warming.

Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood

Try this whisky if you like...

Quality Speyside whiskies, and you're looking for something you can easily pick up from a wide range of retailers - even supermarkets. Reasonably priced for a quality single malt, you can pick up a bottle for around £46-50. At time of writing, available for £47 from Sainsbury's here.

About the Dram Team

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Want to read more reviews and recommendations? Find our full Whisky Under £50 series here.