Review: Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year

It’s about time we review some Scotch around here, and what better place to start than with The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year.  This is a fantastic example of Speyside Scotch that is light, fruity, sweet and rich.

For those unfamiliar with Scotch or those that have only dabbled in it, Scotch is categorized by the region of Scotland in which it was produced.  There are five major regions: The Lowlands, The Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay.  When purchasing Scotch, you can typically have a very good idea of what a Scotch will taste like based on which region it hails from.  Also, just like in order for whiskey to be called bourbon it must be made in America, the same applies to Scotch in that it must be made in Scotland.  However, unlike bourbon, Scotch producers have more freedom in terms of barrels used to age their whiskey, providing for a much wider range of flavor profiles.  For example, Scotch can be aged in any number of barrels including ex-bourbon barrels, wine barrels, or in this case rum barrels.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask is a Speyside Scotch that is full of sweet, rich flavors.  Balvenie aged this particular expression in traditional oak casks for 14 years, then transferred it to ex-rum casks that once held West Indian rum.  The result is a tropical Speyside Scotch.  The nose is ripe with tropical fruits, sweet honey and vanilla. The taste is very similar, rich honey and vanilla with a hint of banana and pineapple and just a touch of spice.  The finish is warmer than expected being only 86 proof, dancing around the tongue with a bit of sweetness before fading away.  The rum casks influence is subtle, transforming this from a typical Speyside into a tropical Scotch without it tasting too rum-like.

This is one of my favorite Scotches I’ve tried to date.  I’m typically a fan of the peatier Islays, but this one helped convince me that Speysides can be pretty great as well.  As far as Scotch goes, this one is relatively inexpensive at $69.99 in my area.  Scotch as a whole tends to be more expensive than bourbon in the States, some of that being due to import costs, some of it simply because most Scotch is typically aged 10 or more years minimum.  As we know, the longer whiskey is in a barrel, the more of it is lost to evaporation, seepage, or any other number of factors, resulting in less product which equates to higher prices.  Single Malts are also more expensive than their blended counterparts like many of the big names such as Johnnie Walker.

So, would I recommend it?  Absolutely.  This is a perfect whisky either for fans of Scotch, those just beginning to dabble, or even as a great introduction to whiskey in general since it’s very sweet and drinkable.  It won’t scare off newcomers like, say, Laphroaig or Lagavulin might with their peaty, smoky, briny goodness.  Those from the bourbon world will have a fairly easy time adjusting since it is similarly sweet and the vanilla notes are very familiar.  Overall this is an excellent Scotch that I enjoy drinking from time to time, especially when the weather in nice and I can enjoy a glass outside.

Have you tried Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year?  Are you curious about trying Scotch, or are you a Scotch veteran?  Would you like to see Scotch reviews more frequently?  Let me know in the comments below.

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