Whisky Review – The Balvenie Doublewood

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.

Is it crooked?

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.

ScoreB.  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:

Official review by The Balvenie

The Casks

Vice Lounge Online

The Whisky Wire

Guid Scotch Drink

$44.

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11 comments on “Whisky Review – The Balvenie Doublewood

  1. Jason G. says:

    Thanks much for your link to our review from last October. Your comments are insightful and certainly a good reflection of the experience we had with this fine malt.

  2. Ryan says:

    Great first review, Whiskywriter! I’ve never been too interested in trying Doublewood because it sounds a bit … boring … for lack of a better word. I do have a Balvenie 15 Single Barrel in my cabinet, waiting to be opened though. I agree with you on the Balvenie labels. The bottle of the 15 is so beautiful, it just makes me want to open it and try some!

    Also interesting comment about the 100 point scale. I used to do that on my blog, but just decided that I don’t really like it and changed my scoring system entirely to something much simpler. It’s not necessarily that difficult to do – it’s just an enumeration of a ranking system, so you’re right that 1 to 24 would be the same thing. I think you were being generous actually with your range – it’s more like 79 to 93 that most people seem to use! Anyway, I think it gets to be too difficult when you start comparing different styles of whisky on the same scale, and inevitably inconsistencies do crop up which tend to bother the perfectionist within. Letter grades are definitely a good system.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Ryan. I look forward to your review of the 15 year old. A little pricey for your blog, no? Nonetheless, it is one that I’d like to try.

      I think it is definitely worth trying out the DoubleWood. A big flavor, heavy on the sherry. And it certainly seems to be appreciated a lot by whisky drinkers that are much more experienced than me.

      Next review for me will be a double. Like 90% of the whiskey bloggers on earth, I’ll review my Irish selections sometime next week in honor of St. Patty’s Day. Redbreast 12 and Bushmills Black Bush. Check back for it.

      • Ryan says:

        I think that’s a misconception in the whisky world that “value” has to be “cheap.” I don’t think so. Still, you’re right that I’m not one to spend an arm and a leg. But, I recently started drinking less whisky overall (I limited myself to 1 bottle per month), so the plus side of this is I was able to purchase a few expensive malts while still spending less overall than I had been. On top of that, here in PA Doublewood is $50 and I got Single Barrel for $59. Seemed like a no-brainer, to me!

        Ha! I too, am drinking some Irish now, but I probably won’t get out the reviews in time for St. Patty’s day. I’ve recently opened Connemara and Redbreast 12 Cask strength. Maybe I’ll get one of them out 😉

  3. littletipple says:

    Superb review – there was you claiming you didn’t know how to do a tasting – spot on! and the grading system’s a good one – slightly more effective than my concept of would i buy another bottle or not… You need to try the signature now – more complex by far!

  4. Florin says:

    WR, I enjoy reading your blog. I am also not a fan of the DoubleWood, I found it just too woody and boring – similar in this respect to the Macallan 12. The Balvenie 15 Single Cask, on the other hand, is utterly delicious! I am curious what were the other whiskies you were considering?

    About the rating system – I really like the one of LA Whiskey Society, in which each grade comes with a simple and easy-to-relate explanation:
    A+ perfection
    A superstar
    A- excellent
    B+ great
    B good, might want
    B- good, worth trying
    C fine to drink
    D unpleasant
    F horrific

    It’s a tougher scale (B+ is “great”), but it does leave room at the top for those exceptional whiskies you’ll surely run into in the future. The Balvenie DoubleWood is a C+ or B- with a reach in my book.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Florin. The LA system is pretty close to what I’m aiming for, except the middle range would be something like:

      A- outstanding
      B+ very good – something that I’d seek out
      B solid, solid, solid – would be thrilled to see it offered when I walk into a bar
      B- Just fine, check it out yourself
      C Does the job in a pinch

      And in retrospect, my DoubleWood grade should probably actually be a B-. And funny you should mention Macallan 12 – I just had a glass of that recently and I too found the somewhat unpleasant sherry to resemble the DoubleWood.

      As to other Scotches, I have bottles of Old Pulteney 12, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, Johnnie Walker Black and Compass Box Asyla open, so those will be the next few reviews (probably the Glenmorangie first). As to future purchases, my rough list looks somewhat like this:

      Dalmore 12
      Glendronach 12
      Yamazaki 12
      Cragganmore 12
      Talisker 10
      Glenlivet Nadurra
      Johnnie Walker Green
      Aberlour A’bunadh (though this may fall into the same category as the Macallan and the DoubleWood)

      Any thoughts?

      • Florin says:

        WR, I’ll be glad to give you my thoughts on future whiskies. Just keep in mind that I shop in Southern California (mostly), where the prices differ from the UK. Here are my recommendations:
        * Berry Bros & Rudd Speyside (they say it’s mostly Glenrothes)– or anything else from BBR, for that matter! Their single casks range from interesting to amazing, and not a lot of blogs review them.
        * Hyde Park 12 – the best young sherried whisky I tried, at a very decent price
        * Talisker 10 or Caol Ila 12 – delicious peated whiskies, though well-known
        * Glendronach – insead of the 12, save for a single cask bottle, The Whiskey Exchange carries them. The one I tasted was one of the best whiskies I’ve ever had.
        * Bunnahabhain 12 – for another perspective on Islay. Somewhat similar in flavor profile with Hyde Park 12
        * Glenlivet Nadurra – I’ve heard very good things about it, though I haven’t tried it. Cragganmore 12 is very good, though not game changing. I can’t recommend Yamazaki 12 and Dalmore 12
        * Aberlour A’bunadh – has my full endorsement, nothing like Macallan 12 or the DoubleWood! It’s a whisky in a class of its own.
        * JW Green is good, and will be gone soon, so do get a bottle
        * Old Pulteney 12 is one of my favorite whiskies, I’m looking forward to the review. It’s hard to do much better on quality/price for a “regular”, non-peated, non-sherried whisky.
        * Dalwhinnie 15 – a favorite of mine. Similar in taste profile with Glenrothes.
        * Glen Garioch is a delicious, underrated malt — though recently it went up in price
        I’ll watch this space with interest!

  5. Florin says:

    Sorry, I just noticed you’re in Philadelphia. I guess that changes a few things. Forget about Berry Bros & Rudd, at least for a while (they may be getting to the US in the next year or so). The single cask of Glendronach – you may order it online from The Whisky Exchange. The rest may be available to you, if the Commonwealth deems you and your brethren worth supplying it to you. On the good side, it seems that the supply of American whiskey is pretty good in PA.

    • Wow! That is some comment! Thanks for all the input. I’m guessing that the next two purchases will be JW green, due to its decommissioning, and Talisker 10, about which I’ve heard great things. I think it is time to dip my toe a bit deeper into the peat pool.

      Aside from that, I’ll reference your comment in future purchase considerations. It is super helpful. Incidentally (and this is just for my curiosity), how many open bottles do you tend to keep at a time?

      • Florin says:

        WR, I currently draw the line at 24 bottles, and try to not have anything open for longer than 6 months. If I don’t enjoy a whisky after a few tastings (that would be a B- grade or less), I give it away to friends. Their taste may be different than mine. Or I try to “fix” it. For example, a pour of Old Pulteney 17 brought a bottle of Speyside 12 back from the dead. But I digress. So: 24. This number happens to fit my liquor cabinet nicely, with 3 bottles per row and no overcrowding.

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