Showing posts with label 21 Years. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 21 Years. Show all posts

Johnnie Walker XR 21

”This Blend Misses the X(R) Factor”

Whisky Review # 965

Country: Scotland

Brand: Johnnie Walker XR 21 (Legacy Blend)
Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Unknown - My guess: (Refill) Ex-Bourbon casks & some Sherried Wood 
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 100-140 (October 2022)
Price/Quality Ratio: 👎 Too expensive for what it offers
Buying Advice: 😐 Very nice presentation but too Thin and heavy on Grain


Dark Amber with shades of Brown and Orange (Artificially Coloured)


Thin arrival. It's almost a crime to bottle a 21 Year old high-end Blended Whisky at 40%. I understand it from a financial point of view but that's all. Such a shame! I also get lots of Grain Alcohol so I would guess that the Grain to Malt ratio is likely to be in the range of 70/30%. The Nose is mostly Sweet but I get a few Sour and Salty notes as well. The Sherry casks are there but are drowned somewhat in the sea of Grain. Main drivers are Caramel, (Dried) Dark Fruit, Honey and Spices with some Smoke and Peat in the background.
Main Aromas:

Grain Alcohol, Toasted Malt, Buttered Toast, Honey, Salted Caramel, Dark Red Fruit like Berries & Cherries, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Apricots, Sultanas, Apples & Plums, Distant Campfire Smoke, Orange Marmalade, Dusty Oak, Cinnamon and Cloves.
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Toffee, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Demerara Sugar, Nougat, Straw, Earthy Peat, Lemon, Canned Peach, Polished Leather Upholstery, Cigar Ashes, Tobacco, Coconut, Dark Chocolate, Licorice Pepper, Nutmeg and Cardamom.


Thin delivery. The slightly Harsh Grain Alcohol rules. The Palate basically follows the Nose with Sweet Dried Fruit, Salted Caramel and slightly Sour Berries.

Main Flavours:

Grain Alcohol, Toasted Malt, Salted Caramel, Dark Honey, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas, Plums and Apricots, Orange Marmalade, Smoke from a distant fire, Peat, Dark Chocolate, Dusty Oak, Pepper, Cinnamon and Menthol.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Nectarine, Lemon, Toasted Nuts, Strong Black Tea, Cranberry, Gooseberry, Dark Cherries, Tobacco, Burnt Toast/Herbs, Polished Leather Upholstery, Ginger and Cloves.

Port Dundas

Short/Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet & Medium-Dry. The Grain Alcohol is slightly Harsh. I find Grain Alcohol, Burnt Toast, Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Dried Fruit like Sultanas, Raisins & Apricots, Dark Honey, Distant Campfire Smoke, Earthy Peat, Dusty Oak, Burnt Herbs, Tobacco, Polished Wood, Toasted Nuts, Dark Chocolate, Strong Black Tea, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cloves, Menthol and Licorice.    

Drinking Advice:

Added Water does not improve this Blend. It's already too Thin as presented.

Rating: 84.5 - Stars on a 1-10 scale: 7 (*******)

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 21

*** Important Note with respect to Rating.

A few of my loyal readers have pointed out that every once in a while my final Rating note does not seem to be totally in line with the written text. I recognize that. When I started this Whisky Blog back in 2011, I was not at all experienced in tasting and scoring Single Malts & Blends. Looking back I realize that during the early years I probably scored the good Whiskies too low and the not so good Whiskies too high. Ever since the beginning I try to remain consequent in my rating, always comparing the outcome to the rating of comparable whiskies in terms of quality and taste and adjusting the final rating if necessary. This might lead to the discrepancy I mentioned before. It would have been much easier if I would have chosen a simple 1-10 rating since the beginning but after having reviewed 950 whiskies it would not be wise to change the system now. I will however from now on add stars on the 1-10 scale so you will have a better idea of what I thought of the whisky reviewed. And I'm planning to only use the 1-10 scale as of January 1, 2023. Please feel free to comment!

Drinking Experience Neat
: Good but too Thin

Drinking Experience on the Rocks: Good but I still prefer JW Black


This Blend is made by the current JW Master Blender Jim Beveridge in honour of the late JW Master Blender Alexander Walker II who received a knighthood from King George V in 1920. The Blend is based on Sir Alexander's hand-written notes. It is produced in three subsequent steps. In step 1, quality casks of Port Dundas Grain Whisky are married. In step two, mature whiskies from Ex-Bourbon casks are added to enhance the core flavours. In step 3, mature Single Malts are added adding Fruit and Malt. These Single Malts are said to include Mortlach, Cardhu, Caol Ila and even a few drops of the old demolished Brora distillery.

I can't help but feel that the XR is all about marketing again. It comes in a beautiful heavy bottle and a nice cask. I can imagine that people see this bottle in the Travel Retail shops and go "Wow, this must be great". But once again we are tricked by appearances. The XR is a good Blend but is way too expensive for what it offers. One of the main reasons is the 40% ABV. That simply does not do justice to the mature Malts that are included in the Blend. At this price level the Malt content could and should have been raised to around 40%, thus improving the overal balance Vs. the slightly Sharp Port Dundas Grain Alcohol. The presentation is really beautiful but the contents leave much to be desired. Like Amy Winehouse I'm going Back to Black that presents a much better P/Q ratio! 

Cheers 🥃

Jan van den Ende                                                                         October 6, 2022


Wardhead 1997 (Carn Mor)

”Songs from the Wood” 

Whisky Review # 943

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Wardhead 1997 (Carn Mor - Celebration of the Cask Series)
Distilled on: 20-02-1997
Bottled By/For: Morrison & MacKay (MMcK) on 01/08/2018
Type: Single Cask Blended Malt Scotch Whisky - Cask # 43 - 354 Bottles
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 54.6% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 140-160 (April 2022)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😐 Okay. A 21 Year old Single Malt is never cheap these days!
Buying Advice: 😔 Not bad at all but probably only for Woody Woodpeckers!

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)


A Mix of Sweet and slightly Sour notes. Quite Malty and Yeasty. The Oak is quite noticeable and so is the Alcohol. There's still sufficient Glenfiddich Fruit to be noted but this Spirit could have done with fewer years in the casks. Anywhere between 15 and 18 years would have been just fine. The Nose is not unpleasant but nothing out of the ordinary as well.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, German Butter Biscuits, Honey, Yeast, Green Apple, Pear, Mix of Nuts and Dried Fruit like Apricot, Gooseberry, Grapefruit, Slightly Dusty Casks, Cinnamon and Mint.    
Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Toffee, Wax, Resin, Powder Sugar, Grass/Straw, Mandarin, Banana, Lemon, Strawberry Yogurt, Melon, Pineapple, Nougat, Floral Soap, Tobacco, Green Leaves,  Wet Rocks, Fresh and Dried Herbs, Ginger and Pepper.


The Sweet and Sour notes of the Nose are still there but they are threatened by the Bitterness of Cask and Wood Spices. I miss balance here. Either Mr. Morrison or Mr. MacKay should have bottled it a few years earlier in my opinion 😉. The Alcohol is noticeable as well. Somehow I got images of an Apple Pie that was kept in a brand new wooden box for a couple of weeks!

Main Flavours:

Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Syrup, Honey, Wax, Resin, Yeast, Dough, Pear, Green Apple, Mandarin, Banana, Gooseberry, Grapefruit, Bounty Bars, Capuccino, Earth, Dusty Charred Oak, Coconut, Pepper, Ginger and Mint. 
Supportive Flavour Accents:

Toffee, Vanilla, Grass and Straw, Melon, Lemon, Strawberry, Leather, Herbal Tea, Tobacco, Aniseed, Licorice and Cinnamon.

Quite Long with lots of Bitter Oak and Menthol. Quite Dry towards the end. Oak and Wood Spices are really controlling the Sweet Malt and Sour Fruit at this point. This really should have been bottled earlier. Still, it's better than most of today's boring Malts. I find Sweet Barley, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream, Toffee, Honey, Wax, Simple Syrup, Grass/Straw, Green Apple, Pear, Banana, Green Grapes, Gooseberry, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mandarin, Toasted Almonds, Charred Oak, Wax, Cacao Powder, Herbal Tea, Floral Soap, lightly Burnt Marshmallow, Green Leaves, Leather, Tobacco, Cinnamon, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg, Aniseed, Mint and Licorice.

Drinking Advice:

You can certainly add a spoonful of Water to this Wardhead thereby diminishing the Bitterness somewhat and increasing the Fruitiness. It obviously loses some of the original raw character as well. I liked it both ways actually.

Rating: 86

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

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. Would be better with less cask time.


William Grant & Sons are the owners of the Speyside distilleries Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. When they sell Casks with Glenfiddich Spirit to Independent Bottlers like Morrison & MacKay, they add a teaspoon of The Balvenie and label it as Wardhead. This way, the independent bottlers can't sell it as Glenfiddich and also not as Single Malt as the minimum amount of The Balvenie classifies the mix as a Blended Malt.

I fully enjoyed this Tasting session. Let me explain. On the one hand this Malt has certainly overstayed its time in the cask causing a Bitterness that will not please most Whisky lovers as it compromises the Fruitiness of the Glenfiddich Spirit. But on the other hand it shows Character, something I so dearly miss in todays Mainstream Malt Madness. If you like the standard Glenfiddich expressions you should not go for this one but if you're looking for some Raw Woody Adventure you should give this Wardhead a chance!


Jan van den Ende                                                                           April 20, 2022

Port Dundas 1992 (Douglas Laing) Review

“It’s Graining Again”

Whisky Review # 712

Country: Scotland
Brand: Port Dundas 1992 
Bottled: 2013 - Hunter Hamilton, Glasgow (The Clan Denny) - Cask HH 9452
Type: Single Grain Single Cask Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 55.7% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon Refill Hogshead    
Chill Filtration: No          
Price Range: US$ 200-230 (April 2018) 
Buying Advice: 😕 It's not bad I guess but it's not my kind of thing.  


Light Golden (Natural Colour)


The Alcohol is quite strong so you need to find your way around that. This Grain Whisky also needs a lot of time in the glass before Nosing. The Port Dundas is Sweet, Fresh, Clean, Yeasty and Earthy on the Nose and it resembles Bourbon. The Nosing of a Grain Whisky takes longer than a Malt Whisky as the Spirit only slowly and (sometimes) hesitantly releases its Aromas.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Cereals, Caramel, Toffee, Caffe Latte, Saw Dust, Artificially Flavoured Candy (Banana, Pear, Cherry, Pineapple), Dusty Track, Straw and Paint Thinner.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Citrus, Charred Oak, Coconut, Menthol, Ginger and Cocoa Powder.   


The arrival is slightly Thinner than I would expect given the high ABV. On the palate, this Port Dundas is Bitter-Sweet, a little Salty and quite Dry. 

Main Flavours:

Toasted Cereals, Paint Thinner, Salted Caramel, Vanilla (Bourbon), Charred Oak, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg, Caffe Latte, Artificially Flavoured Candies and Cocoa Powder.  

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Creamy Toffee, Ginger, Honey and Young Dutch Cheese.       


Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet, Spicy and a little Hot. A few Salty notes as well right at the end. I find Artificially Flavoured Candies (Pear, Banana), Paint Thinner, Cocoa Powder, Caffe Latte, Vanilla (Bourbon), Salted Caramel, Cinnamon, Pepper, Nutmeg and Toasted Cereals.  

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and on the Nose this Port Dundas relaxes and becomes more Fruity. Additional Dairy as well. The strong Pain Thinner retreats and that's a good thing. Palate and Finish do not change significantly but become a little more Friendly as well. My advise is to add a few drops.

Rating: 84 

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

Drinking Experience:

Good and Interesting but not quite my style.  


There's nothing really wrong with this mature Grain Whisky other than that it is what it is. And you must like this different Aroma/Flavour profile to really enjoy this Port Dundas. Mature Grain Whisky is not comparable to the young Alcohol that is used for Blends. It's quite clear that this Port Dundas interacted well with the cask. Still it's a very direct Spirit and it misses the fine nuances that a well matured Malt whisky brings to the table. Personally I would not spend over 200 US Dollars for this type of Whisky but if you're into Grain Whisky this P. Dundas might just be your kind of thing.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                     April 5, 2018

GlenDronach Parliament Review

“Licking a PX Cask"

Whisky Review # 672

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands
Brand: GlenDronach Parliament
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 48%
Maturation: Sherry casks    
Chill Filtration: No      
Price Range: On average around US$ 140 (January 2018). 
Buying Advice: 😒 Negative. Too Expensive. Go for the 15 or 18 instead! 

Colour: Mahogany (Natural Colour)

Nose: Please make sure to give this GlenDronach sufficient time in the glass  before you start nosing. My first impression is the deep Sweetness as a result of long years of contact between an important part of the Spirit and the PX casks. Sherry Bomb fans will love these full Aromas of Dried Fruit like Raisins, Plums, Sultanas, Apricots, Dates and mixed Nuts (Nutella). I also find Toasted Oat-Meal, slightly Burn Toast with a dollop of Salted Butter, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Rum-soaked Fruitcake, Citrus Peel, Dusty Earth, Maraschino Cherries, Marzipan, Espresso, Milk Chocolate, Sour Apples, Polished Leather Upholstery, Cinnamon, Mint, Clove, Soy Sauce, Toasted Wood and Canned Meat. There are hints of Sulphur, Burnt Rubber and Varnish but they are not strong enough to spoil the party. These Aromas also tend to diminish after half an hour or so. The Alcohol  is noticeable so you need to find your way around it. Solid Sherried Nose but without the Wow factor.

Palate: Bitter-Sweet, slightly Sour, quite Woody and Spicy with Toasted Cereals, Treacle, Brown Sugar, Caramel, the Dried Fruits and Nuts from the Nose, Wax, Cocoa Powder, Orange Peel, Dusty Road, Toasted Oak, Dark Chocolate, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Clove, Aniseed, Licorice, Menthol, Dried Herbs, Nutmeg, Cassis, Espresso, Overripe Cherries and hints of Polished Leather and Tobacco. There's a Meaty feeling to the Palate but I can't nail it precisely. Tinned Spam perhaps.   

Finish: Short to Medium, Bitter-Sweet, Medium-Dry, quite Woody, slightly Sour and Spicy. You will find the Dried Fruit and Nuts from the Nose, Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Strong Black Tea, Espresso, Dark Chocolate, Orange-Peel, Red Berries, Grapefruit, Toasted Oak, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Aniseed, Licorice, Dried Herbs, Menthol and hints of Leather, Tobacco and Ashes. It's all quite Dark and Strong and at times it felt like licking the inside of a refill PX cask. I'm sure there are fans who love that but it's not quite my thing.            

Drinking Advice:

I added a little Water and the Christmas Cake Aromas get stronger. I get some Peach as well. Palate and Finish do not change in a significant way although the Finish gets even more Oak influences. The Alcohol retreats of course and that's a good thing. The Parliament certainly accepts a little Water so I advise you to start with 5 drops for a normal sized dram and increase it 3 drops at a time until you get the right feeling.   

Rating: 83      

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

GlenDronach was founded in 1826 and is located in Forgue (Aberdeenshire) in the Scottish Highlands. In 2008, Pernod Ricard from France sold it to the owners of the Benriach distillery. The current core range includes the Hielan (8 Y), the Original (12 Y), the Parliament (21 Y), the Grandeur (25 Y) and a few peated  Malts with a Wine Finish. Today's production lies at around 1,2 million litres.    

The Parliament was released in 2011 and is named after a colony (Parliament) of rooks that lives close to the distillery for around 200 Years. GlenDronach is known to have a reasonable quantity of older whiskies that were distilled before 1996, the year the distillery was mothballed. Production only resumed in 2002.

File:Glendronach pot stills.jpeg

🍷  The Spirit 

The GlenDronach distillery operates two pairs of Stills of which the Lyne arms point downward to create a full-bodied, Spicy and Nutty Spirit. The Water is sourced from the Dronach Burn.
Related image

🌲  The Wood:

The Parliament 21 Years matured in a mix of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks. Based on the sweetness of the Whisky I assume that more PX casks were used or that the married Whiskies were finished in PX casks for a while. I do not have precise information on this matter so I'm guessing a bit here.

Drinking Experience: Good but quite Woody. 

Conclusion: There are lots of Whisky fans that love Sherry Bombs period. I like to find some balance between Sherry, Distillery Character, Maturation and Age. I don't find this balance in the 21 Year old Parliament. It's basically Sherry and Oak and that leaves this Single Malt on the Heavy, Musty, Dusty side. A bit of a One Trick PX Pony. And it can't be cheap of course. So in my opinion you are better of with the easy going 18 Years Allardice X-mas Cake or, even better, the old stubborn 15 Years Revival. Both are matured in Oloroso casks only and that seems to work better for the GlenDronach spirit, at least in my opinion.  

Jan van den Ende                                                                  January 4, 2018

Happy New Year

Another Year has passed by and it went really quick! Even if Mr. Donald Trump might tweet otherwise. I would like to thank all my readers for their interest and their reaction in the form of comments, requests, e-mails and samples. I would like to wish you and your families a very Happy and Healthy 2018. May the good Whisky Spirit always be with you. Whisky makes more friends than any other product does. Let's keep it that way! 



Blair Athol 1990 (Douglas Laing) Review

“Bell (‘s) Bottom Blues”

Whisky Review # 622

Country: Scotland
Region: South-Eastern Highlands
Brand: Blair Athol (Douglas Laing - Old Malt Cask Series)
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 21 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50%
Maturation: Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: Around US$ 100 (July 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😄 Positive. The best Blair Athol I have tasted so far.

Colour: Pale Gold/Chardonnay (Natural Colour)

Nose: Certainly not overwhelming but quite pleasant and well-matured. Malt, Fruit and Vanilla are the main drivers. The Oak and Alcohol are there but they remain nicely in the background. I find Malted Barley, Buttered Toast, Fresh Pastry, Wax, Vanilla, Toffee, Heather-Honey, Salted Nuts, Grass, Dusty Straw, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Mandarin, Pear, Apple, Plums, Pineapple, Cherries, Fresh Herbs, Oak and light Spices like Cinnamon and Ginger.

Visit May 2014

Palate: Sweet, Creamy, Fruity and Spicy wit some Herbal - and Salty notes as well. I find Toasted Barley, Fresh Pastry, Fruit Cake, Honey, Syrup, Vanilla, Oak, Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Banana, Chocolate, Salted Nuts, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Fresh Herbs, light Licorice, light Menthol and Herbal Tea.  

Finish: Middle-Long, Sweet, Creamy and Spicy with Bitter - and Herbal tones in the end. I find Toasted Cereals, Fresh Pastry, Honey, Vanilla, Banana, Orange, Lemon, Salted Nuts, Plums, Milk Chocolate, White Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Licorice, Herbal Tea, Oak and light Menthol.

Visit May 2014

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose the Fruity - and Malty notes seem to develop even further. Palate and Finish become more Spicy and Herbal with developing Menthol and Licorice. You can certainly experiment with a few drops of Water in this case. I liked it both ways.  

Rating: 86.5      

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21.5

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery, the Bottlers and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in Pitlochry (Pertshire) in 1798 by John Stewart and Robert Robertson, initially under the name Aldour. Only in 1825 did it receive its current name. It was mothballed in 1932 and bought by Arthur Bell & Sons, a family owned Blender. Production restarted in 1949 and from then on and until today Blair Athol became the heart of Bell's Blended Whisky. Eventually, the distillery, via take-overs, became part of Diageo. Only very few Single Malts are launched from time to time by Blair Athol so we mostly depend on independent bottlers in this respect.

Douglas Laing & Co is an independent Whisky bottler that was founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing in Glasgow. Today they are mostly known for their Exceptional Single Casks series as well as the Remarkable Regional Malts Series that includes well-known blended Malt whiskies Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, Rock Oyster and Big Peat. In 1999, the company released the Old Malt Cask Series. Their current directors are Fred Hamilton Laing and his daughter Cara. In 2013, Hunter Laing & Co was founded by Stewart Laing, the other son of Fred. The assets of the old Douglas Laing & Co were split up between Fred Hamilton and Stewart. The Old Malt Cask Series went to Hunter Laing & Co.

The Blair Athol 1990 I am tasting today was distilled in August 1990 and was bottled in August 2011. Only 268 bottles were drawn from the cask but you can still find some on the Internet. 

🍷  The Spirit 

Blair Athol currently produces around 2 million litres of Alcohol using two pairs of pear-shaped Stills with Lyne arms that point downwards creating an aromatic Nutty and Malty type of Spirit. The Water is sourced from the Allt Dour Burn. 

🌲  The Wood:

The Spirit matured for 21 Years in an Ex-Bourbon Refill Hogshead with cask # 7561. This cask wasn't extremely active in my opinion but it did give sufficient Aromas and Flavours to the Spirit while maintaining some of the characteristics of the distillery. Good cask management. 
Visit May 2014

Drinking Experience Neat: Good. 


This is the best Blair Athol I have tasted so far. It certainly holds it ground as a Single Malt in this case. Which proves, as so often, that good casks do produce good Whisky. The Blair Athol 1990 by Douglas Laing is not at all heavy but well-balanced, Fruity and Malty with enough Herbal and Spicy notes for balance. A nice Malt to sip on a sunny Summer Afternoon. I know that Bell's is a popular Blend but it kinda hurts to know that almost all Blair Athol Spirit is matured for a short time in indifferent Refill Ex-Bourbon casks to guarantee Malt supply for this Blend. Because Douglas Laing shows here that Blair Athol could be so much more when given the time and a good cask. I understand it from a commercial point of view but it's a pity nevertheless.

Jan van den Ende                                                                         July 6, 2017

Visit May  2014

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