Balnellan is another in a long line of private label bottlings for big-box American chain store Total Wine, this time supplied by independent bottler Angus Dundee. There have been a few offerings in the Balnellan line, but this expression of single malt whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks before transferred to Cognac barrels for finishing, with no age statement listed.
The Cognac influence is immediate: a simple brandy-heavy note and not much else. A little bit of water provides relief with notes of caramel and sugar, but the Cognac overpowers any nuance. The palate improves matters with mild ginger, almond, and green apple trying very hard to make an impact, but to very little effect. The finish is medium length, with few changes from the nose to the palate. Water adds in a minor sweetness, a mild swath of honey and vanilla, but it fades quickly and the grape onslaught returns to the fore.
The single malt sourcing is shrouded in predictable confidentiality. It could stem from an experiment using Tomintoul, also owned by Dundee, but it’s nearly impossible to tell, with the Cognac influence so aggressively dominant. Cognac finishes usually work well with bourbon, but working two drams proved to be an arduous chore. Fans of finished whisky may find some joy and value, but purists may take issue with the excess in the final stages of aging. Much like a well-intentioned, loveable dog, this is just confused and wiry with little focus or direction.
C- / $33 / angusdundee