The Balvenie 26 Year Old - A Day of Dark Barley Review


I was recently listening to a podcast that outlined all the weird riders that rock bands have had over the years. Many included whisky; usually something from Tennessee or Kentucky. I briefly thought, what would be on my list? I didn’t have an answer because I always want to drink something a little different. Would I be in a mood for an oaky bourbon? A smoky scotch? A rye spicy Canadian whisky?

I now have my answer. A Day of Dark Barley pops with so many unique big flavours that I’d be happy to drink it no matter what my mood. Unfortunately, it comes in at $850 US. At that price-point, I’d have to be really famous.

As the third part in The Balvenie Stories Collection, A Day of Dark Barley is the oldest and most expensive of the bunch. This whisky has a ton of character. It might not be to most people’s price point, but for those willing to spend, it’s a uniquely rewarding purchase.

Fully matured in first-fill Bourbon Oak barrels, the barley is roasted the specifications of a stout. From the Balvenie website:

The arrival at the distillery of a batch of dark roasted malted barley, more commonly used in the production of stout, marked the beginning of a 26-year long experiment. The result was a pleasing depth – smokiness and oakiness as well as the classic honey, vanilla and citrus flavours.

When that expensive high-age statement single malt is poured at a gathering, the reactions are often very similar: “Oh wow, this is so wonderful.” “It’s so smooth!” That’s not to take away from those reactions, they’re honest, but people never really know quite what to say. Older scotches tend to be delicate in their flavour profile, and hard to get a feeling for late at night among friends.

I have a feeling when A Day of Dark Barley is poured in those same gatherings, there will be a clamor of tasting notes being called out from all around the room. Everyone will pick-up on a different note, and it’ll bring life to the tasting. At this price point, this single malt is far too expensive to be enjoyed regularly. It is, though, the perfect whisky for that room with friends at a special gathering.

Or, if you're are big rock star, just add this to your rider list. It’ll be the perfect whisky to have at the end of the night.

The Balvenie - A Day of Dark Barley 26 Year Old
The Balvenie Distillery
Category: Single malt scotch, 26 Year Old, First Fill Bourbon Oak, Dark Barley
Score: 93

Nose: At first glance, this basically noses like Pop Rocks (sweet, acidic, gummy, and tempting). Give it a little time (but just a few moments), and you’ll get so much more. You’ll pickup on the rich honey so consistent with the Balvenie brand. At times, it reminds me of ginger candy, dried mango, and flavors in that sphere. Sweet (super so), gummy, and sharp like ginger and mango. Fascinating!

Palate: Lots of great intense sweetness—dried mango, rich honey, combined with an intense oak spice. That thick sweetness turns to dark chocolate, croissant buttery, and a medley of dried fruits. I can’t get over how ‘heavy’ this drink is on each and every sip. Dusty barnyard notes are there, but ever-so-subtle. The zest and spice carries through to the finish, but the sweetness fades quickly. You’re left with a buttery cinnamon note that begs for another sip.

Conclusion: Even considering the list of older scotches I’ve enjoyed, I’ve not tasted anything like this. It doesn’t remind me of any other single malt. It’s sweet, but it has the heft to it that works wonderfully. There’s a spice that balances it all out. This is still Balvenie through and through, but it’s amped up in flavours, and the perfect dram among close friends.

Disclaimer: Thank you to The Balvenie for providing me a sample of this whisky! It had no influence on my rating.