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Balvenie ‘Islay Cask’ 17 yo (2003, OB, 43%)

Every mentally healthy person must love Balvenie. This is an universal law, obviously, hence: let’s not dare to dispute it. Between today and Friday we will test two “experiments” of David Stewart, seemingly questionable (wait, haven’t we just said that…. whatever), like maturing for six months in ex-Islay, highly peated, casks a Balvenie 17 yo and let’s see what happens. There are 2 versions that we’ll compare: the first “Islay Cask”, the second (due to SWA regulations change) “Peated Cask”. For our utmost respect for the timeline, we start with the Islay Cask.

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N: the Balvenie style isn’t silent even under the peat influence, this is immediately clear. Indeed prevail hints of vanilla, banana (banana ice cream?), and also delicate but persistent notes of grass, heather and leaves. The time spent in bourbon is more evident compared with the one in peated cask (to be honest it prevails even on the spirit of the distillate itself). Sweet corn, cream. Wood polish. And the peat? A light cloud of smog, that vanishes quite fast.

P: it surprises everyone with an unexpected turn, like a real bomber: unexpectedly shows in front of the goalkeeper with a quite mineral vest, waxy, intense: and this note is long and persistent following the entire evolution of the palate. The very bourbon-ey side of the nose is here integrated in a wider frame, where the opposite blend (we know this doesn’t make much sense but we love weird expressions): vanilla vs fresh grass, ash vs honey.

F: long, like a sweet cereal biscuit accompanied and then surmounted by wax, ash and peat.

Nice evolution! The monolith sweetness is slight excessive for the graceless standards of Balvenie, even if, on the nose, it seemed like a limit due to the lack of the awaited sparring partner (peat), between the palate and the finish, the balances change and the Islay barrel takes the scene over the distillate. 86/100

Recommended soundtrack: The Winstons – …on a dark cloud

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