Review: The Balvenie Doublewood
Every now and then I come across a spirit that captures my attention and catches me a little off-guard. Not being a ‘big’ whisky drinker (although I do enjoy the odd tipple), I was certainly more than a little surprised when I found myself becoming really quite enthused about the Balvenie range, due in no small part to a rather clever marketing campaign called ‘The Whisky Den’.
What first piqued my interest in the Balvenie range is their use of old techniques that have long since been abandoned by many. I’m a sucker for ‘traditional’ spirit production and the Balvenie pride themselves on the use of rare crafts in the production of their whisky. The Balvenie grow and malt their own barley, and use the only traditional working floor maltings in the in the Scottish highlands to process it. An on-site coppersmith tends to the stills, whilst a team of coopers ensure that the Balvenie barrels are just as they want them to be. Finally, the Malt Master David Stewart is the longest-serving in the industry, having been overseeing the distilleries whisky for 47 years! This is a brand that prides itself on traditional crafts and doing things properly.
The Balvenie range is rather extensive, and whilst the signature character is present throughout, they use flavour profiles produced by using different barrel types to create an interesting and varied range. The doublelwood is aged both in traditional oak barrels and first fill oak sherry casks, making for a very approachable whisky with the sherry character helping to smooth and sweeten. Although delicious on it’s own, the doublewood stands out however for its ‘mixability’. Tasted neat, this is a very approachable whisky and almost bourbon-like in character. The sherry notes are there, but not overpowering, although certainly contribute to the nutty, sweet, Christmas cake-like character. After 12 years of ageing it’s smooth too, slipping down all too easily and appealing to both the whisky connoisseur and those just starting out in their discovery of whisky.
Scotch is used too infrequently in cocktails in my opinion, and whilst it certainly has a characteristic flavour that does not always mix well, the sherry notes in the doublewood make this whisky an ideal one to mix with;
2oz Doublewood, 1oz sweet vermouth, 0.25oz Benedictine. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled glass, garnish with a lemon twist.
The Bobby Burns is a twist on the Rob Roy (or Manhattan depending on which way you look at it), and the flavour combination of vermouth and Scotch whisky is not to everyone’s taste. However, the vermouth brings out the nutty and fruity notes and complements the sherry elements whilst the Benedictine stands up well to the Scotch, adding a delightful herbal taste in the background. This is a complex drink that shows off the best of the Doublewood and makes for an excellent after-dinner drink.
2oz Doublewood, 1oz lemon juice, 0.5oz sugar syrup, half and egg white. shake all ingredients without ice then add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
The bourbon sour is one of my favourite drinks and often doesn’t translate well to Scotch whisky. However, the added sweetness of the sugar and tartness of the lemon bring out a very different flavour profile with the Doublewood. I mentioned earlier the ‘Bourbon-eque’ notes and these are very present here, together with those sherry elements again. The barley flavours so characteristic of a speyside Scotch whisky are prominent but not too dominating, making this a cocktail with both strong flavours and finesse.
Blood and Sand No. 2 (Difford’s Formula
1.5oz Doublewood, 0.75oz cherry Heering, 0.75oz sweet vermouth, 0.75oz orange juice. Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
The blood and sand is a classic Scotch cocktail, with this recipe courtesy of Difford’s guide being a little more dry than the ‘original’ recipe. The Doublewood with it’s sweet sherry notes benefits from the drier mix, and complements the cherry and orange exceptionally well. This is complex yet approachable, if ever there was a cocktail to prove that Scotch can be mixed, this is it.
“The Balvenie Doublewood is a honeyed, floral and fruity delight. It is full of flavour and delivers just the right amount of influence from the bourbon and sherry casks in which it has spent time. Enjoyable on its own, this mixes exceptionally well and should be tried by everyone.”
The Balvenie Doublewood is available to buy from Master of Malt