"I found this original, complex and above all, I really enjoyed this. One of the pleasant revelations of my tasting sessions in this year."
(Photo from Whiskybase)
After tasting some peated expressions from the Isle of Arran in my previous two reviews, I will turn my attention today to a Speyside distillery that also felt the need to peat up their range. Sceptical? Well, not persee, but it is kind of a fashion lately. However, it might also lead to interesting variants on the existing theme. This peated Balvenie is the first release of an experiment that master blender David Stewart MBE and former distillery manager Ian Miller started in 2001 when they decided to run the Balvenie distillery for one week a year with peated barley. This peated barley contained 30 ppm and was prepared by drying with only Highland peat. According to them, peat from the Highlands lacks the coastal characteristics that are typical for Islay (or Island) peat, and rather is much sweeter and earthier. The batch that I will taste for this review was distilled in 2002 and matured for 14 years in American oak casks. Moreover, it has been botled without any chill filtration.
Fresh fruits and fragrant scents in the initial scents with lots of apples (flambeed with calvados) and smoked pears. The peat is restricted, but well integrated in the spirit. Not so much a bonfire on the beach on a windy day, more a cosy fireplace indoors. The fruity peat is complemented by vanilla cream pudding, confectioner’s cream, the blackened hard crust of a freshly baked bread. Then it takes a backwards turn towards a car repair shop. We have motor oily, ironwork sparks, graphite, maybe even old tyres and car interiors. In between are lovely scents of butterscotch cookies. Sounds pretty weird, but the interplay between the fruits, pastries, the hearth, and all kinds of things from the garage is utterly pleasing. We also have hints of smoked pineapple, a few distant herbs, butter, and a hint of smoked ham. A quite complex nose, which even becomes slightly mouldy (in a good way).
Just as the nose, the palate opens into the orchard with freshly picked apples and pears and very pleasant peat smoke. A mouth full of distant bonfire smoke, slightly ashy, before we enter the garage. Iron dust, wet wood, car parts, motor oil, brake fluid, hint new rubber tyres, and new car seats. In particular the metallic notes remind me in the distance of Ben Nevis. The balance is beautiful, while the complexity is enhanced with fragrant flowers like roses and violets, and orange peel. It does feel like an sunny autumn saturday sitting in the garage, which looks out over the orchard, enjoying the fruits of an afternoon of picking aples and pears, with a fresh cup of orange-flower-flavoured tea on the side. The finish is quite long with more bonfires, even some coals, oranges and iron.
If they wanted to make a different take on a peated whisky, then I think they have succeeded! I found this original, complex and above all, I really enjoyed this. You might say this came as a surprise for me, since I tasted only one Balvenie so far and did not like it that much. But this is something else. Exemplary for other Speyside distilleries who are thinking about going onto the smoky side. One of the pleasant revelations of my tasting sessions in this year.
Big thanks for sharing the sample
• these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •