Home Distilleries Review: The Balvenie 16 Year French Oak

Review: The Balvenie 16 Year French Oak

by Chris Perugini

It’s hard to believe but this is my first Balvenie review of 2022! My favorite Speyside stalwart has been busy in the past 12 months with a variety of new releases including plenty of new travel retail exclusives. Today’s review is of a whisky that launched earlier this year in Europe and is brand new to the US market as of summer 2022. Balvenie’s house profile allows their whisky to mingle nicely with a variety of cask types. From Port to Sherry to rum casks and more, it’s easy to incorporate different barrel-influenced flavors on a house distillate that’s honey and orange citrus forward.

This new addition to the range is a first for the distillery when it comes to both finishing barrel and oak type. The Balvenie 16 Year French Oak is finished in French oak casks that once held Pineau des Charentes. According to the description for this expression, “Charentes is a fortified wine made from unfermented grape juice, to which a Cognac eau-de-vie is added and then matured.”

This is not only an unusual choice for a single malt, but this is going to be a permanent addition to the core range—their first since the 14 Year Caribbean Cask launched in 2013. William Grant and Sons must have a good working relationship with their Pinaeu cask supplier. I went into this review expecting to find rich “desert wine” flavors from this type of cask influence. Was I right?

The Balvenie 16 Year French Oak is non-chill filtered and bottled at 47.6% ABV.

Image Courtesy of The Balvenie
The Balvenie 16 Year French Oak - 47.6% ABV
Category Notes
Appearance Light Gold
Nose Intense honey, orange marmalade, fresh flowers, winey sweetness, vanilla, hint of nutmeg, green grape skins, light perfume. I can tell that there’s wine cask influence here but wouldn’t be able to tell you the type on taste alone. With time and water, notes of apple danish, malt, and demarara present themselves.
Taste Sharp spice at first, ginger, shortbread, icewine, key lime, Fun Dip stick, a bit of mint, some oak-driven vanilla, lemon. Water brings out a much deeper burnt sugar sweetness along with notes of grapes, cooked oats, chocolate orange, and just a bit of oak.
Finish Marzipan, vanilla icing, more chocolate carries over from the palate, a bit of earthiness, more ginger (crystalized this time), grapefruit, honey, green melon. Not a huge change with water. Medium-long length and those classic, sweet Balvenie notes are the last ones to fade.
Overall Thoughts In a whisky world that's ripe with rum, sherry, port, and red wine casks, I appreciate the use of an uncommon finishing cask for this release. The sweet wine adds the exact notes you would expect on top of an already sweet distillate. I don’t think this expression particularly stands out from some of the other things the distillery has been up to lately but it certainly fits nicely into their range of offerings.
Total Score 88/100

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