By no means is it a case of being a ‘Marmite’ love it or hate it affair, but with the elevation from being a subtle and usually non detectable peatette zero, to this evolved peaty hero, it may cause a few frowns from the 'taking things too serious brigade'.
To be honest I think this is a fabulously eclectic dram, but it does need and deserve some tender loving care and indeed patience to allow it to fully awaken in the glass, before it dishes and delivers up its full wealth of dramming potential.
Even though it doesn't quite have the same pin point perfect balancing as the releases from the core range or indeed the meaty and moorish delights of the Madeira Cask, it still delivers a wondrous wrath of all that is great about ‘The Balvenie’ and indeed a whole lot more.
The nose initially offers up subtle sweet smokey waves of peat-opian delight, along with flourishing and enthusiastic whiffs of those tremendous trademark honey notes, followed by a whiffette of heaving heather for good measure.
Back notes of freshly ground pink peppercorns, along with a subtle infusion of damp summer grass and a hint of vivacious vanilla begin to kick in, before the wonderlicious aromas of grilled caramelised peaches and a bubbling hot pan of damsons, take hold of the proceedings.
Blustery confident waves of orange, cinnamon and star anise, followed by a brief blast from some bitter but delicious ‘Green & Blacks’ organic cocoa make for the next set of sensations, and to be honest by this stage things seem to of gone rather Highland-esque.
The smoke eventually begins to intensify slightly and subsequently delivers something more reminiscent of the coast, infused with a couple of slices of burnt granary toast, layered with thick zinging apricot jam.
The palate is as equally as exciting and eclectic, though by its more intense nature you do double take and wonder if it’s the same dram you started out with.
Bountiful and balanced bouts of barbecue smoke, infused with the sweetness from a jar of preserved apricots and a nip of ‘Chambord’ raspberry liqueur make for the first set of palatable delights, followed by a generous glug of honey and all the deseeded delights from a vanilla pod.
Those winter spice notes of cinnamon and star anise make a reappearance, this time accompanied by a non overpowering measured blast of nutmeg and a hint of some tantalising toasted sweet oak.
The smoke then begins to mellow and an element of damp tobacco begins to come through before leading on to a long, semi dry, sweet lingering finish. By this latter stage there’s also the emergence of something faintly Bruichladdich-esque about it, which just goes to prove this dram has multilayered levels of dramming eclecticness.
This is not the most balance perfect ‘Balvenie’ ever released, neither does it match up completely to all the usual nosing and tasting sensations associated with this scintillating Speyside distillery, but I can tell you one thing for sure, it’s certainly one of the most exciting!