Whisky Advocate

Review: Balvenie 15 year old, Single Barrel

March 15th, 2010

The Balvenie “Single Barrel,” 15 year old, (Cask #7266), 47.8%, $62
One of the finest Balvenie 15 year olds that I’ve tasted. The flavors are clean, well defined, confident, and beautifully balanced. Full malty foundation (with some ripe barley thrown in). Soft, creamy vanilla, honeycomb, bright fruit (orange, nectarine, lemon peel, hints of pineapple), with emerging dried vanilla, coconut, oak resin, and subtle anise. Polished oak finish. It doesn’t have the depth that the classic older Balvenies have shown in the past, but what it does have, it has in spades. Quite splendid! (A Julio’s Liquors exclusive.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

33 Responses to “Review: Balvenie 15 year old, Single Barrel”

  1. kallaskander says:

    Hi John,

    just curious…

    “One of the finest Balvenie 15 year olds that I’ve tasted”

    what were the others, then?


    • John Hansell says:

      I’ve been drinking the entire line (12 yr. DoubleWood, 15 yr. Single barrel, 17 yr. limited Editions, 21 yr. Port Wood, and even the 25 single cask and 10 y/o when they were availble) ever since the line was released many years ago.

      The 15 yr. old is a single cask bottling, so no two are identicle. So, that’s my reference to the other ones–all the ones I’ve been tasting over the years.

  2. kallaskander says:

    Hi John,

    I´ll look out for Cask #7266.

    thank you.

  3. Jacob Halbrooks says:

    I am lucky enough to live near Julio’s and picked up 2 bottles of this (which was dubbed “Singularity”, as you can see on the sticker if you enlarge the image). In addition to John’s notes, I would comment that this whisky has an excellently long and satisfying finish.

    This was the first non-chill-filtered Balvenie I’ve had, and the mouth-feel is great. I might not go back to chill-filtered, 43 % bottlings after this!

  4. MarkC says:

    This would be my pick for the “If you could only have one”. I have had a few over the years and never been anything but happy with them.

  5. The 15s are fun due to the unique nature of each one. David Stewart does a great job of trying to match the desired profile, regardless of age. Some of the 15yos are actually much older.

    I’ve been saving 2oz samples of each one I get so I can put together a Head to Head with a good number of them. Should be fun!

  6. Red_Arremer says:

    I’d love to get my hands on this. The Balvenie Single barrel was the one that really got me into single malt.

  7. two-bit cowboy says:

    Can you tell us the distilling and bottling years of cask #7266? Just curious. My current 15 yo was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2008.

  8. Sam Simmons says:

    Thanks for reviewing this, John, and glad you enjoyed it.
    If Julio’s Liquors has any left, I am sure they are soon to go now!
    Just to clarify, every SINGLE BARREL is a single barrel, each yielding a MAX of 350 bottles (typically 240), so each one is different. I love looking at the fine print: I have ones that are actually 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 years old (but all say Balevnie 15yo SIngle Barrel).
    Perhaps we can populate a table of 15 different Balvenie Single Barrels at some future WhiskyFEST? Geeky? Yes. Fun? Absolutely.

    • John Hansell says:

      That would be a blast Sam. (And yes, geeky.)

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Yeah, that would be awesome! You should really do it.

      Btw, a friend of mine just picked up the last bottle in the nearby store for me so I feel lucky.

    • mongo says:

      i guess i’m not sure why/how a single barrel bottling sold as a 15 year old would have older whisky in it? if it’s all from one cask then it must all be of the same age. and if that cask has been aged for 16 or 17 years why is it sold as a 15 year old?

      i’m asking all this out of the blue because i turned to this thread after bringing a bottle of the 15 year old single barrel (from cask 1708) home this evening. haven’t cracked it open yet.

  9. MrTH says:

    I’ll never see this particular one, but the Balvenie 15 was one of my early favorites, and I’m long overdue for a bottle. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. lawschooldrunk says:

    I find that the FR10 and DW12 far surpassed the 15 on the palate and in the nose.

    The 15 batch I had was way too oaked. And I mean “waaaaaaaaay.”

    • John Hansell says:

      Not this one, LSD. I don’t like woody whiskies. This one is really balanced. That’s the pleasure (and pain) of single cask whiskies.

    • Alex says:

      I had similar experience with a 15yo single barrel – creaking with oak – and I miss the FR 10 yo. Anyone try the Rum Cask 17 yet?

  11. Charles Tower says:

    I was one of the fortunate members of Julio’s Loch & Key Society who helped select this cask in September 2009. Four consecutive casks, filled on the same day, and stored side-by-side for 15 years. Each was unique, but we were unanimous in selecting cask 7266. When we had done this David Stewart said that was his choice, too!

    • John Hansell says:

      It really is a lovely whisky.

    • peter says:

      I am not a whiskey expert but I do have brother in law in Dallas who is. earlier this year I lost a bet on the super bowl to him for a gift of his choice. You probably guessed that his choice was this cask #7266. so being the expert that I am not I waited until I was going to visit him in Dallas to give him his scotch and called Julio’s last week. They were nice in that they didn’t laugh me off the phone. So is it possible to buy a bottle of this from someone around the Boston area that would want to part with one??

  12. sam k says:

    I always figure that when a whiskey (especially a scotch) costs less than its rating, it’s probably worth buying!

    Though I’m not generally scotch-oriented, I have really enjoyed the Balvenies I’ve had over the years. This sounds like a good addition to the family!

  13. Michael Z says:

    ….a true 15…..always unique….my wife’s ‘ flavorite’

  14. mongo says:

    i mentioned in an earlier comment that i brought home a bottle this evening. well, i have now cracked it open. this is from cask 1708. very nice, but i don’t think cask 1708 deserves a 91 rating. it is a very well-balanced whisky, and there’s no hint of over-oaking, but in the end there’s nothing very distinctive about it. but since i only paid $48.99 for it i am not complaining.

  15. mongo says:

    i would put my bottle in the mid-high 80s. it is indeed very good but it didn’t make me want to rush out and get another bottle. i may yet grow to like it a lot more–the highland park 12 left me cold when i first tried it and now it is one of my favourite malts (this might be an interesting topic if not already discussed? “what malts did you once like/dislike that you now don’t care for/like and why?”). on the whole, i think, the reason i rate it a little lower than you is actually cited in your review: the lack of depth. then again we drank bottles from different casks (though i’m not sure how much real variation there is across these casks). but the difference in our estimations is not large enough to qualify as disagreement.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Mongo, the different casks of Balvenie 15 vary enough that any given individual with a decent palate and particular preferences would be likely to like some more and others less. Some feel that the variation is even greater and see the whole line as hit or miss.

      • mongo says:

        you know, after going through most of the bottle at a rapid rate i think i now agree with john’s evaluation of this whisky as applying to cask 1708 as well–really very good indeed. i’m appreciating the balance of the oak and the fruit more now and i will indeed replace the bottle as soon as it runs out. though another store here has bottles from a different cask, and i’m tempted to try a comparison.

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