They weren’t kidding when they called this one sweet! There’s marmalade resin on the nose, albeit pulled across a horsehair violin bow, along with marzipan-coated honeycomb. We also found root vegetables cooked unto sweetness, only to be mashed under Donald Duck’s webbed feet (it’s a particularly clean duck note). The typical Balvenie signature on the nose comes out only later. But when it does, it’s like snuggling up with a warren of rabbits on a cold winter’s night. [Bill: Calm down, John! Not Elizabeth Warren!] Did we mention it’s a clean sweetness? It also offers notes of fresh laundry dried with butterscotch-scented drier sheets. Organic butterscotch.
The mouth is the perfect combination of savory, substantial, creamy, and tangy. Imagine more root vegetables, but wearing hibiscus leis (because they’ve been spared from a luau on the big island of Hawaii). Now imagine a taro root grown in a Dufftown peat bog (that’s what Apprentice Malt Master Kelsey McKechnie, the talent behind this new whisky, calls the planter on her back porch). The peat is light and delicate, as fine as Bill’s precious chalk (which really needs to be renamed for the #MeToo era). The mouth also confirms something the nose hints at: the ABV on this dram is pitch perfect.
The finish is simply extraordinary, with savory and spicy notes that must come from the virgin oak barrels used to help mature this whisky: dandelions, palm reed fans, and a fugu-esque lip tingle. And it offers a faint but welcome callback to the mouth, offering the sensation of walking past the wall outside the classroom where the sanctioned young man had banged out the erasers thirty minutes before. This dram is subtle and sophisticated beyond its years, and is an apt introduction to the next Malt Master.
On the scale of famous apprentices —
The Balvenie The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 Year Old is somewhere between Frida Kahlo and Camille Claudel–Whether she’s destined to be better known than the immense talent under whom she apprenticed, only time will tell. But the talent is unmistakable.
–Our thanks to Balvenie for the sample!