As noted in my introduction to my whiskey journey, I started down this path in a rather haphazard fashion. I tried a few whiskies based on a good review here or there, or perhaps because I seemed to recall a good review that, in retrospect, I haven’t been able to since track down. So when I decided to start this blog (and approach my introduction to whiskey in a somewhat logical fashion), I decided that I’d start at the beginning. I set out to determine the best “beginner’s” Scotch. After considering a number of different options, the one single malt that I found was most often recommended was The Balvenie’s DoubleWood.
If you are looking for some notes on The Balvenie’s history, or the coordinates of the crystal-clear stream from which its water is taken, you are at the wrong blog. I’m just here to review the juice. However, before I go on, I note that my label appears to be a degree or two askew, with the right side of the front lable being a millimeter or two higher than the left. That doesn’t appear to be intentional, so perhaps my bottle is a quirky keeper.
According to the Balvenie’s label, which I will note is one of the classiest in the Scotch world, this 12 year old benefits from a mellow vanilla spiciness due to its time in oak casks, while imparting fruit and honey from sherry casks. I’ll be the judge of that.
Nose – From my brand spanking new Glencairn glass I’m getting … some sherry, almost a raspberry flavor. I also get some wood. Not vanilla or toast, but like a plain old wood floor. Also, I really pick up on something unpleasant. Almost like an apricot soda. Tart.
Taste – To me, the nose really follows through into the mouth. Big sherry, again the wood flavor, almost nutty. Cinnamon. Medium to full body, no smoke. And then there is a tart taste toward the end that almost seems a tiny bit carbonated. Pretty smooth, and the sherry dominates.
Finish – This sticks with you for a fair bit, with the wood floor really resonating as it goes on. Drying.
I find that this is one dram that benefits from a small splash of water. Notes with water:
Nose – Seems sweeter on the nose. I’m getting real honey now. Again, though, that tingly tartness.
Taste – Smoother than before. Getting a lot more vanilla. Sherry remains, as does that bit of cinnamon.
Finish – Finish is shortened a bit by the water.
Comment – This is one whiskey where I believe a few drops of water makes a big difference. Much smoother, with the big sherry/cinnamon flavor a bit more balanced with the added sweetness of the vanilla and honey aspect. Not my favorite to date – I’m trending toward at least a few hints of smoke along with a more prominent sweetness – but it wouldn’t send me running from the Scotch Whisky world if this were truly my first taste. The bottle sure won’t go to waste.
Score – B. On the whole, I enjoyed the DoubleWood. I don’t know if I’m that wild about the sherry, and there is a certain tart aspect in the background that just disagrees with me, but it certainly ranks among the “tasty drink” category. I don’t know that I’d seek it out for another purchase, although it is rather economical. (Also, a note on the standard 1 to 100 whisky score scale. I think it is dumb. Really? You can determine that the drink was an 86 rather than an 87? Really? I don’t buy it. I don’t know that I’d be able to tell the difference between an 86 and an 89. Plus, as far as I can tell, the lowest possible score is around 73, and the highest possible is about 96. Why don’t you just have the lowest be 1 and the highest be 24? Same thing, right? Anyhow, I digress. Broader, letter grades seem to more approachable to me.)
Other, better reviews: