Having recently posted a review of a whisky released in 2019—Wednesday’s Allt-a-Bhainne—let me annoy you with a review of a whisky released in 2009. This is one of the first whiskies I fell in love with and bought multiples of. I am referring not just to Balvenie’s 15 yo Single Barrels of days of yore—the original ex-bourbon series—but to cask 1708 in particular. Seemingly endless quantities of it were available in 2010 from Chicago-Lake Liquors, a Minneapolis store that meant a lot to us middle-class Minnesotan whisky drinkers. They had a very good selection of distillery release whiskies in those days and were known for their low markups. It was thanks to their low prices that I got to try so many whiskies, including this Balvenie 15 SB, which—as per my spreadsheet—cost me all of $49 before tax in 2010. Those days are long gone—as are the days when Scottish distilleries of any kind, leave alone name distilleries, released whiskies older than 15 years old in their 15 yo series. Yes. the ex-bourbon Balvenie 15 yo SB series saw 16-18 yo casks bottled under its label—and if I’m not mistaken there were even reports of the occasional 20 yo (but perhaps that’s lunatic nostalgia talking). Speaking of 20 yo Balvenies, Chicago-Lake used to carry the Balvenie 21 Port cask for $99. And no, I never got around to purchasing a bottle because that seemed like a lot to pay for whisky in 2010. Don’t you love these reminiscences? Now, join me as I turn back time and see if my very last bottle of barrel 1708 of the Balvenie 15 Single Barrel will be as good as I remember it being.
Balvenie 15, 1994 (47.8%; Single bourbon barrel #1708; from my own bottle)
Nose: A lovely blend of cereals, malt and toasted oak. Below that are mild notes of tart-sweet apples and pears. A little sweeter with time but otherwise very consistent. A few drops of water amplify the fruit and add a lot of musky citrus to the mix.
Palate: The fruit leads the way here with the oak coming up behind, spicier than on the nose. Very nice drinking strength and texture. The citrus rises with time and air and meets up with malt. Okay, let’s see what water does. It brings everything together very nicely and amps up the citrus here as well. Quite a bit of pepper too now.
Finish: Long. More acidic here with the tart apple mixing with lemon peel and cider. The spicy oak carries through as well. A leafy note at the very end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is very Balvenie and very good and flawless bourbon cask whisky. My notes track with the rough notes I’d taken on the first bottle of this I’d ever bought. My score now, however, is not as high as it was then (recorded in my spreadsheet at 90 points)—I guess my frame of reference is much wider now.
Rating: 87 points.
I’m pretty sure I have 1 more bottle of Balvenie 15, quite possibly from Chicago-Lake! I will have to check the #.
Also, it’s seems crazy to have walked out of there with a Balvenie 15 and a Laphroaig 15 for right around $100.
With tax! As per my spreadsheet, I bought Laphroaig 15 for $40 from Chicago-Lake in 2010—still working my way through the last of that stash. And this Balvenie 15 SB was $50.
Other highlights included Springbank 15 for $65, Nadurra for $55 and HP 18 for $90.