Scotch whisky is, generally, aged in used bourbon casks. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is that bourbon is only bourbon if matured in fresh, unused barrels and this (obviously) generates a huge quantity of used wood in need of a good home.
Barrels can be used over and over, and can last many years. What makes today’s dram different is that it’s been entirely aged in barrels fresh from the bourbon industry – the wood has never matured a drop of (scotch) whisky before.
Balvenie Single Barrel First Fill is a 12 year old whisky, and as the name suggests each bottle contains spirit from a single barrel. As such, each batch will be subtly different – traditional bottlings, even of single malts, are composed of multiple casks blended together, to achieve a more consistent flavour.
It’s a remarkably pale dram, despite it’s age. The nose is creamy, full of vanilla and touches of honey with a hint of chocolate. Watered, an oak character comes through with slightly spicy notes.
In the mouth it’s warm, rich and gently spiced with soft brown sugar, caramelised apples and a long, peppery, toffee-filled finish. With water it’s still warm and sweet but the spice is tamed; cinnamon tarte tatin and a calmer, gentler finish.
An intriguing dram, and one that I think I prefer with a splash of water. 3.5 stars.