Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Second Edition NIS 370-399.
First Edition NIS 320 (from Yayin BaIr, Kfar Saba).

First Edition Left. Second Right

First Edition Left. Second on Right

A review of the First and Second Edition

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask has been matured in Ex-Bourbon American Casks for 14 years and finished in Caribbean Rum Casks for a few months to impart extra flavour. It has Kashrus Mehadren Certification by the Manchester Beis Din.


The Second Edition (The Dark Brown Canister):

For reasons which will become clear soon, let me review the Second Edition first!

The second Edition (the dark brown box) is a Single malt whisky unlike any I have experienced up until now. It is obvious from the start that all casks involved, from the American Ex-Bourbon to the Caribbean Rum casks, were of top top quality.

What a shame that they chose to add E150a caramel colouring giving it that Orange tinge that ends up making it the identical colour to the First Edition. Had I been involved I would have made sure this was bottled with its natural colour if only to differentiate between these quite different whiskies.

Yes, this is a sweet whisky but compared to the whiskies known for being sweet, like Glenmorangie, Singleton of Dufftown, Glenfiddich...the Balvenie is positively dry and so so much more.

Cruzan Rum distillery

Sugar cane for Rum production, Jamaica

I have read and watched a number of reviews of the 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask and based on these I would have definitely given this a miss had it not been for a private tasting of this Balvenie a month ago at Aleph Aleph Piup wine store in Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem.

My good friend, Matitiyahu, the resident wine expert at "Aleph Aleph Piup", Ramat Eshkol

An ever growing selection of Single Malts
So impressed was I that I ended up taking this lovely dark brown bottle home. The reviews seemed completely at odds with my own tasting experience. I could not understand why.

As mentioned above, the Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask is Kasher LeMahadrin (Manchester Beis Din) which makes it an excellent (although somewhat pricey) choice for strictly observant Jews who wish to experience something other than ex-bourbon matured or virgin oak. What an experience it is. I spent 15 minutes delighting in its maltifaceted aromas. It’s almost worth buying for this Wonderland of smells alone! This proved to be a most complex (but not complicated) whisky with layers and layers of flavours. I would describe it as a Caribbean voyage of adventure for the senses.

Don't tell me you've never sucked on
the end of a matchstick?

You start off with delicious homemade unsweetened black brittle toffee and roasted walnuts. There is a hint of new sweet and bitter matchstick sulfar tip as well. (If I was poetic I'd describe it as the smell of canon gun fire from 'Man of War' Caribbean Pirate ship but I'm not so I won't!). Behind this is an apple crumble and a complete kitchen shelf of exotic spices.

Definitely Cinnamon sticks, a hint of unsweetened baked Coco powder. Spicy Vanilla and of course, rum essence soaked in planks of wood. Even straight after popping the really thick cork, this is a deliciously smooth balanced malt with no hint of spirit burn.

"Aih Aih Ye Maties, this be a real Caribbean treasure chest of tastes!"

Warning! Despite being bottled at 43%, this is a delicate whisky and easily drowned. One or two tiny drops of water will do.

The First Edition (The Light Beige Mushroom colour Canister):

Two weeks after opening the first bottle (the Second Edition Dark brown box) I came across an old bottle of The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask in a wine store in Kfar Saba going for NIS 320, some NIS 80 cheaper than I’ve seen this whisky in Jerusalem. It wasn’t until I got it home and placed it next to the first bottle I bought did I realise that they were not same! I had bought an old First Edition bottle. I immediately became excited at the prospect of a direct comparison. First verses Second Edition!

The First Edition (the light beige box) I'd describe as very sweet with hints of sweet black cane sugar syrup, liquefied blended Mars Bars and rounded off with red hot chilli peppers. Oh, did I mention that it was mind blowingly sweet? It is at the same time very spirit driven which gives it a spicy hot smell and rather harsh taste. Overall impression is of a two dimensional whisky with little depth. It seems to me that the original Ex-Bourbon casks were tired and lacking flavour so they decided to spice the whisky up by finishing it off in Rum casks. This obviously adds sweetness but cannot hide the harsh immature spirit underneath. Even a week after opening and leaving the cork off for a few hours, the harshness remains. Adding water simply waters it down. No improvement in flavour was detected.

This explains the awful reviews. They were obviously talking about the First Edition.

Bottom Line:

My advice, seek out the Dark Brown canister (and avoid the beige Mushroom colour canister like the scurvy - “Haha you Limeys”). You won’t be disappointed and can look forward to your own wonderful Caribbean voyage of adventure.


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