Review: The Balvenie French Oak 16 Years Old

Review: The Balvenie French Oak 16 Years Old

When The Balvenie dropped its new French Oak release, I immediately assumed that the term implied new French oak was used in the aging process. Not so. What The Balvenie has done is finish a 16 year old whisky in wine casks that held the rarely seen Pineau des Charentes, which is a sort-of wine that stands as a special type of treat.

Not familiar with Pineau? Check out the above link — or we can have Balvenie explain the basics:

The Balvenie French Oak 16-Year-Old a vibrant single malt finished in casks that previously held Pineau wine from the French Charentes vineyards. The expression explores the use of Pineau French Oak casks for the first time in the distillery’s 130-year history. Pineau des Charentes, or simply Pineau, is a fortified wine made from unfermented grape juice, to which Cognac eau-de-vie is added and then matured.

From the start, this is an exciting, intriguing whisky that takes the Balvenie DNA and spins it just so. I had initially expected the Pineau finishing to have a powerful impact, but it’s actually quite subtle. The nose is as pure an expression of Speyside as I’ve experienced, waves of malty cereal and honey, then baked apples, and then baking spices and gentle notes of barrel char. Aromatically sweet but woody, the whisky immediately demands to be consumed, and again those traditional, cereal-meets-fruit-meets-spice notes all come into the fold. At first I was reminded of a sip of The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, but the whisky evolves quickly to bring in new and unexpected flavors. A sharper citrus note grips at the back of the throat before eye-opening notes of crystallized ginger and a lumbering, Dutch process cocoa note come into focus. Gentle wood notes linger on the finish, and while they add a distinctly savory element to the whisky, they never dominate the experience.

The Balvenie French Oak takes you on a journey, visiting some familiar locales and plenty of new ones as well — which sounds like the perfect little vacation to me.

95.2 proof.


The Balvenie French Oak 16 Years Old




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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