Sweet fruit and sherry notes, layered with honey, vanilla and hints of nuts and cinnamon…We love all those words which, combined, make love for a smooth and beautiful confluence of ambrosia, called The Balvenie Doublewood 12-Year-Old.
At a recent tasting dinner, “Rediscovering The Balvenie: An Evening in the Woods,” Jamie Johnson, the ebullient Brand Ambassador, introduced The Balvenie selections with enthusiasm. We nosed and sipped and exclaimed at the beautifully mellow flavours and nuances.
A clever mixologist created luscious cocktails with The Balvenie Doublewood which we enjoyed pre-dinner, comparing notes and nibbling on elegant hors d’euvres. The allure of The Balvenie’s Doublewood 12 is derived from its remarkable character from maturation in two different wood types, American Oak ex-bourbon barrels, and Spanish ex-Oloroso sherry casks, each lending different complexities to the Single Malt Scotch. Bottled at 40% ABV, The Balvenie Doublewood 12 is smooth and mellow with beautifully combined flavours of warmth, sweetness, spice and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry. The single malt lends its smooth, rich flavours to dinners or desserts alike, making for the perfect gift for that special someone on your list to enjoy together.
Most surprising was discovering how versatile The Balvenie Doublewood is with food pairings. Heirloom Beet Salad comprised of roasted beets, goat cheese mousse, arugula and candied walnut citrus dressing, paired in a clever manner with the creamy profile and smooth honeyed character of 14-year-old The Balvenie, Caribbean Cask. This 14-year-old boasts a rich, creamier profile from its maturation in traditional oak whisky casks for 14 years before finishing in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. The resulting single malt is exceptional, with The Balvenie’s traditional smooth, honeyed character, married with notes of toffee and a hint of fruit with a warm, lingering finish that’ll make for a memorable dram each time it’s enjoyed.
Elk Ravioli, a delicious meaty surprise encased in light pasta ravioli, came lavished in a lush The Balvenie French Oak 16-year-old tomato sauce, which I was happy to scoop up with a spoon. This vibrant 16-year-old single malt is finished in casks that previously held wine from French Charentes vineyards. Pineau de Charentes is a fortified wine crafted from un-fermented grape juice, to which cognac eau de vie is added and matured. Balanced light floral notes from lotus and geranium flowers dance between hints of fresh meadow grass and peeled apple skin. A zing from tangy lemon rind and grapefruit meets the delicate subtle sweetness of glazed fruits and spice from root ginger.
Perhaps the most accessible and exciting pairing, that we will replicate at home several times over the holidays, is The Balvenie PortWood 21-Year-Old with a New York Striploin. Ohh…yes!!! Robust and juicy, our tasty steak, set on crisp wedge frites, gets a kick from The Balvenie bone marrow jus. It is the perfect pairing. This rare The Balvenie, aged 21 years in traditional oak casks is finished in port pipes for four months. Soon-to-be-released, it is expected to hit the LCBO between mid-December and early January. The taste is refined and remarkable in character, creamy and silky on the palate with fruit, honey, and spice notes. This fan-favourite has won an array of awards since its initial release in 1996, and is a true representation of the ultimate craftsmanship bottled with each Balvenie expression. Fans of The Balvenie will be delighted for the re-release in Canada after a number of years on hiatus.
Dessert? Of course. Is there anything more Canadian than donuts? Cinnamon and sugar-coated, these light confections are set in a luxurious pool of The Balvenie Chocolate Sauce. Just when we thought the bar could not be raised higher, we are offered the magic of The Balvenie Twenty-Five. This is divine. Launching in Canada for the first time, in a flawless whisky marriage, Malt Master David C. Stewart MBE brings together individual casks to craft an incredibly intricate and balanced expression, exemplifying the art and skill of Single Malt TUN marriages.
The delicate craftsmanship required to create something so subtly extraordinary is simply praiseworthy. Soft tones of honeyed ginger and a complex structure of oak and vanilla elicit taste-memories of roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and savouring freshly-baked cinnamon-infused apple tart, as this elixir luxuriously lingers on our palates.
The Balvenie is unique among single malt whiskies. The Scottish distillery is the only distillery that still grows its own barley, employs traditional floor maltings, and keeps both a coppersmith and a team of coopers on site, lending to a storied and traditional approach to making single malt scotch whisky.
The Balvenie selections, including The Balvenie DoubleWood and The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, are available in select Canadian markets year-round. Contact your local retailer for specific product availability and pricing. The Balvenie Twenty-Five is also available now, exclusively in Ontario at select LCBO locations. The Balvenie PortWood 21 is expected to reach LCBO stores in mid-to-late December or early new year.
Want to impress someone? The Balvenie single malt scotch whiskies are the most sophisticated and auspicious gestures for the holiday season. Each dram, neat or on the rocks, is a harmony of natural alchemy and centuries-old tradition to enjoy in the present and toast to the future.
Sara Waxman, OOnt, is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.