Saturday, 25 February 2012

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

As I sit here and write this, on a lovely late Saturday afternoon, the sky is clear and the sun is out and I am able to catch up on a sampling that I have been trying to find the time for, for a number of weeks. I wrote back in the Talisker 57° North sampling that life is what happens when you plan something else. After the Glenmorangie Lasanta sampling, things went a little bit hectic for a time, but today, I have some spare time to sit back, relax and write about the Balvenie DoubleWood 12.

I will start off with a negative as I have a small gripe with Balvenie. If I clear the air here, then I can carry on to enjoy the sampling without it hanging over me. Recently, Balvenie did an online tasting, whereby those who managed to sign up were sent a 10cl sample along with two tasting glasses. Nice for those who received them. This was all to do with a new Warehouse 24 exclusive whisky and was a rather ingenious way of gathering up interest and anticipation. I have no problem with this. Afterwards, it was published quite widely that this sampling would be a limited edition bottling of some 300 or so bottles of a whisky that was to be known as Craftsman’s Reserve No1 - The Cooper.

Well, there I was waiting patiently for my e-mail, as a member of Warehouse 24, to inform me that the whisky had been released. Therein would start my race to get a bottle of this whisky. I wanted to purchase it because it had a good background story and would make an interesting whisky to sample and write about. But no, it seems that not everyone who is a member of Warehouse 24 got an e-mail. Hardly fair. So by the time I came across the news that it had been released, a day later, it had, hardly surprisingly, sold out.

Things happen for a reason I guess. But I decided that I would, as a blog author and disappointed customer, e-mail Balvenie, airing my disappointment that not all Warehouse 24 members appear to be equal and that I did not receive an e-mail informing me of the release. Normal customer service protocol usually rewards those who send a message, a reply at the very least, which is all I was after. The world goes round to word of mouth marketing and although a good experience usually goes unspoken, a bad experience travels the world. Through this blog I have the ability to have my thoughts and voice heard, or at least read.

Customer service within the whisky distillery world seems to be bafflingly non-existent. When I started the blog, I sent out some e-mails to distilleries, none replied and I have read through other blogs with authors commenting that they request information, for instance regarding casks, or a process, and it seems that in the majority of occasions their request goes without response. It is a shame really, all customers deserve a response, or further information if so required but the whisky world seems to operate outside of that. Look at the back of a Coca Cola bottle or a Mars Bar and all those companies, massive multi-nationals actively detail how to contact them, such is their desire for you to be satisfied with your purchase, because of the strength of a bad experience. You would like to think that positive customer relations would be a key area for a company to fulfil, especially with those who spread the word of the company, through blogging, free of charge. The majority of people will come across Super Single Malts and read through my sampling of Balvenie DoubleWood 12 as it is a first hand, independent opinion of a product, which they are going to spend a reasonable amount of money on. A bottle of Coca Cola is £1.98, whisky is considerably more!

So, negative over. I will happily submit an amendment if Balvenie chose to respond to me, back to the sampling.

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 was the first ever bottle of whisky that I purchased. I cannot remember whole heartedly why I chose it, when I first started drinking whisky, I did not research it online, nor did I know the difference between Bells, Jameson or indeed Balvenie. I believe it may very well have been on special offer, which is always a good reason to purchase. My little memories of it were pleasant, I liked it enough to carry on drinking whisky and exploring single malts.

This time around, I picked up a 200ml (20cl) bottle from Tesco for £12.99. I wish more distilleries would produce this size of bottle, it is an excellent way of establishing whether you like a whisky without throwing all your money away if you do not. It also gives you enough to get a good idea of the flavour profile, miniatures (5cl) are gone within one, maybe two glasses!

The DoubleWood 12 is similar in its development to the Glenmorangie Lasanta, however the finishing time within the sherry casks is shorter. Primary maturation is in ex-bourbon casks for the majority of the 12 years, before a few final months in ex-sherry casks. The sherry casks are sourced from Spain and there is no detail as to the origin of these, be it from Oloroso sherry etc.

Next time I crack open a bottle of Balvenie, I will return with more information about the distillery, but for now, I will go straight ahead and let you know how the DoubleWood 12 performs. Afterall, it is likely that my thoughts on a whisky are what people are most interested in! (You can let me know about this point in the comments section at the bottom.)

What always interests me with a sherry matured whisky is the colour it absorbs from being in ex-sherry casks. My eyes might be deceiving me, but there always seems to be a slight (more pronounced the longer the whisky is matured in the casks) hue of red in the colour. The red is only the faintest of touches as the DoubleWood has only a short period in the ex-sherry casks.

On the nose, the biggest influence is vanilla, some might suggest a richness that indicates vanilla custard. At the top of the glass rim is the feint hint of raisin, something I have thus far found in every sherry matured whisky I have tried. As you come up out of the glass, hints of honey and almond fill the air and at the top, a touch of oak. The nose is pleasant though not very expressive, don’t breath in too harshly otherwise you will get a nose full of alcohol.

The whisky is medium bodied in the mouth, not too oily. Strong flavours of wood as you swirl around your mouth, honey on the tip of your tongue. A bitterness is also present, some have said chocolate, others citrus fruit. I am more inclined to suggest that this is citrus peel, from an in season bitter Seville orange.

As you swallow, you feel the whisky as it passes the back of your tongue, but after that, it has gone, very short finish.

Overall, the Balvenie DoubleWood 12 years old is quintessentially what I expect a whisky to taste like. Maybe this is because it was my first single malt experience, maybe because it has flavours which do not challenge the nose or palate and is therefore accessible to all. It is easy drinking, but therefore perhaps, boring. Nothing jumps out at you, it has to be hunted down and requires a lot of concentration to find, both on the nose and in the mouth. Recommended for every day, but if you like an adventure, this is not for you.

For prosperity, as I finish this, it is dark, another day has passed.