One of the things Balvenie likes to do in its standard offerings besides various age statements is experiment with different cask finishes. Unlike other whiskys, who often use a cask finish for their NAS releases, Balvenie displays both age and finish. Unlike some distillers, who buy their ex-wine or spirit barrels from around the world, Balvenie takes American oak casks and chooses the West Indian rums (i.e. Cuba, but renamed to get past picky U.S. import law) that fill them. The master distiller chooses when these barrels are ready to empty and be filled with the 14 year old whisky for finishing. How does the smoothness of the base whisky mix with the rum casks?
Age: 14 years
Maturation: Caribbean rum casks
Nose: Spice, sweet, coconut, magnolia, suntan oil, orange peel, oak
Palate: Spice, milk chocolate, sour
Adam – The Caribbean Cask finish was my first introduction to Balvenie and one of my first approach to cask finishes. So let me be up front: I do not dislike this Scotch. It is eminently drinkable and has some good qualities. I’ve enjoyed all that’s going on in the nose and playing find-the-rum across the palate. It is a curious Scotch, that’s for sure, much different than most of the other finishes Scotches have recently employed. Rum brings a different quality than wines, which set us to discussing how much of the taste was impacted by the finish and what were qualities inherent in the whisky itself. While the Balvenie Doublewood sits a little easier on the palate, I think at the very least this Scotch is a fascinating experiment, though am not sure I’d pay the sticker price for another bottle.
Kate – This is a whisky where my sole interest lies in nosing it. I think that’s the most interesting part of it by far. We don’t run across many rum cask finishes. Perhaps there’s a reason?
Meghan – This Scotch was the first one that made me realize that an older age doesn’t automatically mean it’s something I’ll like more. I tried it side by side with Balvenie’s Doublewood (12 year). The Caribbean cask is much sharper and one dimensional. I notice the rum on the nose and palate but in the way that reminds me why I always shunned drinking Captain and Coke in college. Heavy on the spice and sweetness but not real backbone. It is the first rum cask and if there are others, it might be worth trying but I doubt it’ll be my favorite cask. I get tired of sherry casks at times but they have always proved more interesting than this showing from Balvenie.