Balvenie 21 Portwood [Re-Review]

Balvenie 21.jpg

Thanks to whiskytanuki for taking the amazing pics at the recent tasting.

Recently the Toronto Whisky Society was privileged enough to have a Balvenie tasting. And not just any Balvenie tasting, but one with Jame Johnson, our resident Brand Ambassador slash co-host of The Whisky Topic. And I was happy enough to join.

The line-up was pretty epic, however as a biased person who likes Balvenie (cause I’m a sucker for honey) I had reviewed quite a bit of it.

However I had thought I hadn’t reviewed the 40% of Balvenie 21 Portwood. This is David Stewart’s favourite whisky, and there are three different versions: One at 40%, one at 43%, and one at 47%.

Since I last had it in Scotland at a bar, and enjoyed it so much then, I assumed (incorrectly) that it had been one of the higher percentages. I mean, the 40% was made for the Ontario market, right? And I remember this being a lot nicer.

However, as you’ve been reading this and know that I somehow enjoy being wrong, the last time I did have it was the 40%. However there’s a couple reasons why I should re-review this whisky:

A) It was near the start of my reviews.

b) I’m a different person now

3) At the time I hadn’t had many Port Cask whiskies.

So first off, I apologize for forgetting the percentage on a whisky I reviewed almost 5 years ago, and more importantly, for teasing others about having said higher alcohol percentage.

So what’s the deal with Balvenie 21 Portwood? It’s aged in ex-bourbon, and then finished in thirty year old port pipes. It’s a standard offering from Balvenie, actually the oldest of their standard line-up. And as I said before, it’s known as the Master Blender at Balvenie.

Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Price: $479 CAD at the LCBO

Region: Speyside

Cask Type Finish: Port Wood

Abv: 40%

Colour: 2.5Y 8/8

Nose: Brown sugar, floral, oak, lemon, chocolate (faint and waxy)

Nice nose on this one. Good brown sugar that invites you in. They’ve pulled some chocolate and floral. it’s nice to nose on, however there are aspects that are fainter than they should be.

I can see where I was coming from before. Looking at my old review, I was excited to have the mixture of floral/honey notes, I had chocolate, and a good balance of acidity.

Taste: Cola, oak, lime zest, cashew, floral, vanilla

Taste, again, is something that just about anyone who has it would have a hard time finding a bad flavour. Floral notes, nuttiness, good acidity.

In comparing this to the Madeira cask, there’s a lot more going on here. More brown sugar. Even at 40%. Yes, I wish the flavours were stronger so I could pick out more complexity that I know is there.

Finish: Plum, cashew, lemon juice, grapefruit, vegetal

Finish is that plum flavour you expect from a port cask, with more of the good acidity. This is the finish being good to it. A full maturation would mean some of the earth and floral aspects would be lost.

That all said, the roughest place in the whole thing is the finish. It goes by quicker than I’d like for the age.

Conclusion: So I need to balance out some things. In my previous review, I thought this was an amazing dram of all time. And coming back to it, I see what I was thinking. The first couple port casks I ever had opened my mind to a flavour profile so new and exciting, I didn’t know it could exist.

Coming back to it, I had a chip on my shoulder. I thought I’d had the higher proof, was all balsy about it, and really should have checked myself, as I have now wrecked myself (somewhat, not really). It’s not rough, it’s not sad, etc.

Yes, it’s missing some elements of complexity. However as something to drink? Quite nice. The price here, in Ontario, is high, however we all know that isn’t Balvenie doing that.

This is the kind of whisky that you could buy someone who has a few bottles of whisky and they would be happy to drink it. It holds up to the age with the amount of flavours, just not with the depth.

78/100

Scotch review #861, Speyside review #245, Whisky Network review #1382

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