...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Balvenie Peat Week 14 year old 2002

Congratulations! You survived Ben Nevis Month! Your reward is two semi-relevant reviews in a row!

For the past 16 years Balvenie distillery has devoted one week, annually, to heavily peated still runs. The malt used for this distillation is peated to around 30ppm by Highland peat. In 2017, they bottled this whisky with an actual two-digit age statement, no chill filtration and a respectable ABV — an almost revolutionary act by an official producer.

Though Balvenie has rolled out peated releases in the past, those all utilized former Islay casks for their phenolic kick. Thus this is a different creature. Now, 30ppm isn't huge by Port Charlotte, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg or Ledaig standards. And since Balvenie's distillery character can best be described as friendly, I don't think anyone anticipated this Peat Week release to be a sock in the mouth. But it's nice to see something different coming from Anthony Bourdain's favorite™ distillery.

This was the sample bottle. I drank its contents. Here's the review.
Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: 14 years old (2002-2017)
Maturation: American oak
Limited bottling: 3000?
Alcohol by Volume: 48.3%
Chillfiltered: No
Colorant added: Probably
(thanks to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)

The nose progresses through a series of playful combinations. First it's lychee candy, dried cranberries and minty peat. Then, root beer barrel candy, charcoal smoke and a hint of iodine. Finally after 30+ minutes, some clementines show up and the smoke goes slightly farmy. The palate is simple, but friendly (as usual). Creamy and honeyed. Soft bitter smoke, vanilla, sweet limes and mild heat. The bitterness becomes drying after a while, making one think it's coming from the oak. At first the finish is strangely short, but it does get longer with subsequent sips. Bitter, salt, heat, vanilla and honey.

Now I'll try it at the usual Balvenie release strength.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv
The nose becomes more sugary. Pears and honey. Sugary and ashy peat smoke. A few dried berries. The palate is much thinner, showing that it needs the extra ABV. It's mildly sweet and pleasant. Peppery smoke and hints of white fruits. The finish is sweet and salty with peppery, bitter smoke.

Peat Week's nose is very good, and much more complex than Balvenie's standard range. The palate is fine. It delivers the Balvenie honey note I always enjoy, but the tannic bitterness knocked it down a small notch for me. I recommend it neat.

MAO and I found many identical notes. We tend to have similar palates, and my sample came from his bottle, but jeez you could have probably skipped this review if you already read his more timely post. I did have more of an issue with the bitter oak than he did, but he's also been working on most of a bottle. It's good whisky though. A shame about the US price.

Availability - UK and US
Pricing - UK: $70-$90, US: $90-$120
Rating - 84