While it’s sister distillery, Glenfiddich, has been releasing a bunch of innovative products, Balvenie seemed to be in a slumber (with the exception being the Balvenie DCS Compendium series for the mega rich). But in truth, there were products brewing, and we finally have a taste of what’s to come. The Stories Collection is here! It starts with a series of three single malts at three different price-points. The first of the series, The Sweet Toast of American Oak, is finished in virgin American barrels. This has been a growing theme in single malt scotch the last handful of years, so did Balvenie manage to do something different?
The Twelve-year old age statements in the Balvenie lineup are sacred. Up until now, there were only two expressions (There’s also the Triple Cask 12 Year Old, but that’s travel retail only). The first being the famous DoubleWood (aged in American oak, and then finished in European oak), and the second being the Single Barrel regular release that’s all American oak. Both are staples of Balvenie single malt scotch. Price-point wise, this release sits somewhere in the middle. This is also the first project David Stewart’s apprentice, Kelsey McKechnie, had a big hand in the making of.
The Sweet Toast of American Oak is matured for twelve years in reused American barrels, and then finished in twice-toasted virgin American oak. Why were the barrels toasted a second time? Kelsey McKenchie and David Stewart experimented with various levels of char and toast, and found that a second toasting at the Balvenie cooperage imparted the most interesting and true-to-Balvenie flavors.
The result is something different than what you’d expect from single malt scotch that’s been finished in new oak. Balvenie’s signature honey note sings through, but caramels really do highlight this single malt, and there’s a weight on the palate that’s new to Balvenie at this age statement. Where the DoubleWood is softer and subtler, Sweet Toast has more intense flavors without sacrificing subtler notes. In terms of flavor profile, this is a more modern expression of a single malt.
As expected, the folks at Balvenie did a terrific job balancing the distillery’s profile with the expectations of today’s palate. They also gave the industry something a little different from other single malts finished in new oak.
The Balvenie Sweet Toast of American Oak
The Balvenie Distillery
Category: Single malt scotch, 12 year old, new oak finished
Nose: Hard candy lemon, beautiful vanilla extract, honey, and brown sugar. The candied lemon note is really quite beautiful, and reminiscent of older scotches. Honey, vanilla, and brown sugar notes do sometimes combine into more of a caramel element.
Palate: Great oak spice, lots of vanilla to start. That shifts toward beautiful caramel towards the back of the palate and into the finish; it’s buttery and chocolate-y. Lots of terrific spice and butter and cinnamon notes. The finish is dry, sharp notes of licorice, and honey.
Conclusion: This is an easy sipper for any occasion. While reminiscent to the DoubleWood, there’s a weight to each sip that’s new and unexpected for a twelve-year old Balvenie. The traditional Balvenie tones (honey, vanilla) are amped up by the new oak, and along with it comes a dryness and spice less typical to Balvenie. The new generation of scotch drinkers is expecting a little more volume of flavor in their whisky without sacrificing complexity. Sweet Toast of American Oak delivers.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Jamie, The Whisky Topic podcast co-host Brand Ambassador, for providing me a sample of this whisk!