The Balvenie 21 PortWood Review


“Speyside’s Port Authority”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: The Balvenie PortWood
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 21 Years
ABV: 43% 
Chill Filtration: Yes 
Whisky Review # 614
Buying Advice: 😐 Neutral. Nice Malt for Port lovers. Negative Price Vs. Quality Ratio. 

Colour: Old Gold/Brandy with a touch of Orange (Probably Coloured)

Nose: An interesting combination of Sweet, Sour, Dusty, Fruity, Floral and Oak tones. The Port Pipe Aromas are unmistakably present. At first I get a bit of the Cooked Vegetables Aromas I often find in the Jura Single Malts. They tend to disappear over time so it's very important to give this Portwood sufficient time in the glass before Nosing. After around 15 minutes I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Vanilla, Toffee, Caramel, Wax, Honey, Brown Sugar, Bourbon, Stewed Orchard Fruit, Blackcurrants, Red Wine, Polished Leather Upholstery, Dirty Road, Nectarine, Tinned Pineapple- and Peach slices in Syrup, light Citrus, Cinnamon, Clove, light Menthol and Aniseed. Although noticeable, the Alcohol is still reasonably well-integrated. I also find a hint of Smoke from a very distant fire. There are more than sufficient traces of Aromas to be found if you take the time with this Single Malt. The main drivers however are Sweet Fruit, Buttery Cereals and Polished Leather, accompanied by Wood, Spice and slightly Sour Red Wine. It's not bad but it isn't entirely my style. 

Palate: The delivery is a little Thin. On the Palate and in the Finish the age of the Malt becomes clear as Oak and Wood Spice appear at the front. On the Palate, the Portwood is mainly Bitter Sweet but also with a few Sour Notes. I find Toasted Cereals, Buttered Toast, Toffee, Caramel, Honey, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Dried Fruit like Apple, Apricot and Plums, Nectarine, Citrus, Dusty Road, Red Wine, Hazelnut, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Aniseed, Cocoa Powder and Tobacco.     

Finish: Middle-Long and Bitter-Sweet with a few Sour notes as well. Dry in the end with Tannins and Oak. Unsweetened Cappuccino topped with Cinnamon and Cocoa Powder is my first image. After a little while I also find Toasted Cereals, light Honey, Orange-flavoured Dark Chocolate, Brown Sugar, Red Apples, Nuts, Red Wine, Sour Cherries, Nectarine, Pepper, Aniseed, Nutmeg and Tobacco.   

The Balvenie PortWood does not improve with added Water. Better sip it neat. 

Rating: 84.5        

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21


General Remarks: 

The Balvenie distillery was founded in 1892 by William Grant in Dufftown, Keith, Banffshire. Production started in 1893. It's still in the hands of William Grant & Sons. Today it's one the 10 most sold Single Malts worldwide.

A vintage Portwood was released for the first time in 1996. Today the 21 Years Portwood is part of the core range of the distillery. There are two expressions around at the moment. The standard one I'm tasting today and a Travel Retail expression that is bottled at 47.6% and without Chill-Filtration. The Portwood matures for over 20 Years in Ex-Bourbon casks before being finished for a number of months in 30 Year Old Port Pipes. The Price varies a lot from place to place but is usually in the 150/200 US Dollar range (April 2017). That's quite expensive but a 21 Year old Whisky can't be cheap of course. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good 

Conclusion: The Balvenie is one of those distilleries that produces whole ranges of pleasant, enjoyable Single Malts that are quite mainstream. It's difficult not to like them. On the other hand they all miss the "WOW" factor in my opinion. And that means that the Price/Quality ratio becomes rather important when you are going to buy a Balvenie Single Malt. I kinda liked this Portwood for example but no way I would spend over 150 US Dollars for this Single Malt. It's not special enough for that kind of money. And the same goes for most of Balvenie's special expressions. That's why I always come back to the 12 Years Double Wood as one of my to-go-to drams. Pleasant Single Malt with an excellent Price/Quality Ratio. If you adore Port Finished Single Malts however and you have the cash, this Portwood is certainly not a bad choice. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                      April 27, 2017

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