Sampling The Balvenie for the first time, I was already coming from a love for sherry-maturing (owed to the Laphroaig PX Cask). Thus there was a fair bit of anticipation as I bought the bottle. The first thing to say about this malt is its wonderful bottling. Out of the box, it feels like something supremely ancient and original. I've added a photo at the end for your benefit, though I do not think it conveys the full picture.
Moving to the malt itself...
Perhaps it was the anticipation, but I smelt sherry-like fruitiness the moment I poured some into the glass. The Balvenie reveals itself wonderfully once you let it air a bit. Even if I'm adding water to a malt, I always take a sip of it neat- just to experience the malt's raw blast. With The Balvenie, that blast is anything but raw. It is a smooth, subtle malt that, quite like some of the Lowland malts, takes its time to rise on you. As such, I found it quite different from the other Speyside offerings I've tried. There is the characteristic spice, but it's balanced well by nut, fruit and a fair bit of oaky undertones.
Once again, as I spent more time with The Balvenie, I found myself wishing that it came with a higher ABV concentration. I can see how its balance might by undesirably disrupted by a 48% bottling, but is asking for 43% being too greedy? In any case, as the night went on, I soon came to taking it neat- the water was getting in the way.
Note: this malt is always written and said as "The Balvenie," quite like The Glenlivet.
nut, grape, earthy oak
fruity sherry, cinnamon and subtle, balanced oak