This release (from 2010, I believe) was presumably the result of a bunch of people at Balvenie getting drunk. This was not made, in the usual way, from peated malt but by finishing 17 yo Balvenie briefly in casks that had previously held heavily peated whisky. Balvenie had done this before with their Islay Cask release (which I have not had). But this Peated Cask is different: unlike with the Islay Cask, the peated whisky that gave these casks their peated flavour had itself apparently been distilled as an experiment at Balvenie some years prior—as to what became of that experiment I don’t know, but maybe someone will be along to inform us. But it gets more complicated still: the Whisky Exchange blog informs us (shout out to Tim F!) that not all of the whisky that went into this release was itself finished in the casks that had previously held peated whisky; some of it had apparently been finished in new oak casks.
At this point you might be forgiven for wondering if this was all a way to dump some dodgy malt as a “limited release” by giving it a complicated origin. But let’s see what it’s like anyway.
Balvenie 17, Peated Cask (43%; from a purchased sample)
Nose: A mild, minerally prickly peaty quality (sort of in the hot tarmac family) along with some sweeter notes (wet stones, vanilla). Unfortunately as it picks up the minerally thing turns sort of plasticky. Some lime behind the plastic. With more time there’s more fruit (apple, lemon). The fruit is muskier with water and the whole is maltier.
Palate: Much more straightforwardly peaty here but the peat is mild and not very phenolic: the hot tarmac from the nose. The fruit is dominated by the peat here—barely palpable. With each sip the plastic gets stronger and the whole more astringent; a little sweeter now (in an anonymous way). Water pushes the plastic back but doesn’t really bring out anything more interesting or pleasurable in its place.
Finish: Long. The peat builds and picks up some pepper.
Comments: Well, it’s true: almost any distillery in Scotland can make undistinguished peaty whisky if they put their minds to it. Which is not to say I didn’t like it; it’s just that what I like about its peatiness I can get more of (and better) elsewhere while what I usually like about Balvenie gets buried. This is, to translate a Hindi idiom, a washerman’s dog: neither of the house nor of the laundry. The best I can say about it is that the new oak finish doesn’t make itself too apparent. Would it have been better without that component or was it in fact needed to salvage the peat finish?
Rating: 80 points.