Lately I tasted a few Travel Retail exclusive expression that left me unimpressed with their quality. Luckily there were a few that bucked that trend, but when you factor along the news on more NAS whiskies coming up, dropping standard age-statement whiskies from the TR market, you can not but worry about the overall change we’re witnessing at the Travel Retail channel.
Although big conglomerates as Diageo and Pernod Ricard drop the age statement from new Travel Retail releases with Mortlach Special Strength, Glenfiddich Casks series and many other examples, the smaller players in the Travel Retail market kept age statement for their Travel Retail releases, like Balvenie did with their Triple Cask range, Bacardi with their “The Last Great Malts” and others.
But we know that age statement doesn’t guarantee quality. Especially not when you’re in the Travel retail market with large captive audience looking for some whisky purchases before going on a plane. Could it be that Travel Retail market is playing itself into a separate game-field with new rules thus making it a less relevant market for whisky aficionados?
The Balvenie Triple Cask 25 Year Old (along with the other expressions in the series: 12 yo and 16 yo), have been matured in three kinds of casks: refill casks, first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts (Hence the Triple Cask name for the range) and then were vatted together and were left to marry in a tun for around six months. As the high end offering from Balvenie in the Travel Retail it should teach us a lot on how we should treat that market.
Nose: There’s that soft fruits and nuts notes so synonymous with Balvenie, but it does feel thin and watery at first. Thankfully over time it develops and we get a lots of honey, coconut, yellow fruits (mirabelles anyone?), sugar icing, sweet cookie dough, hazelnuts and gentle oak wood spices.
Palate: Once again it’s thin and weak, quite dry, sweet honey, vanilla and gentle spiciness of white pepper and oak wood, some nutty notes playing 2nd fiddle, mirabelle juice and hazelnuts.
Finish: Short finish. oakiness, lingering honey and mirabelle sweetness and tingles of spice.
Thoughts: A disappointing Balvenie. All the good notes are there and it could have been a good whisky, but it just falls flat on its face. The low ABV and probably chill-filtering are the culprits here and so it joins the rank of unimpressing Travel Retail exclusive whiskies. If only it were bottled at 47.8% like the Single Barrel 25 yo, I’d dare say it would be an excellent whisky and one of the rare good gems at TR, but I think they preferred to maximize their revenues at the Travel Retail market instead, just like all other major players in that market.