When Scotland Met Portugal: The Balvenie Madeira Cask 17 Year Old

The Balvenie has been called “the bourbon lover’s scotch,” a perfect description of the smooth, honeyed sweetness found in the Speyside distillery’s single malts. For the last several years, Balvenie has been one of the foremost practitioners of the wood-finished style, in which traditionally-aged Scotch is “finished” for an additional two years (or more) in casks previously used to age wine, or fortified wine such as port or sherry. The method results in whisky of considerable flavor and complexity. In years past, Malt Master David Stewart has crafted releases such as Sherry Oak (2007) and Rum Cask (2008) for The Balvenie 17 Year Old Limited Edition Range.

The latest in the series is the Madeira Cask 17 Year Old, which was released September 2009 in limited markets worldwide. For this release, mature Balvenie spirit has been finished in casks that previously held Madeira, a fortified Portuguese wine. Stewart notes that “the 17 year old whisky extracted some wonderful rich spice and distinct raisin flavors from the Madeira cask, which we hope malt enthusiasts will enjoy discovering in the glass.” In his Malt Advocate review, John Hansell rated the Madeira Cask 90 points, calling it “one of the most deftly-balanced whiskies I’ve tasted this year.”

After attending a recent launch event for the Madeira Cask, I was eager for a quieter, more focused experience with the excellent limited release. The booze fairy was apparently listening, for a sample arrived on my doorstep just before the holidays. Given its scarceness, I was particularly grateful to receive the review bottle. Suffice to say, subsequent drams have reinforced my enthusiasm for the Madeira Cask. I highly recommend seeking out The Balvenie Madeira Cask; your efforts will be rewarded.

Slàinte Mhath!

The Balvenie Madeira Cask

  • 17 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
  • 43% ABV
  • Retail price: $120.00


  • Color – Amber, golden honey.
  • Nose – Spicy, earthy oak notes with subtle hints of vanilla and honey. Soft fruit aromas, with apple infused with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
  • Taste – Initially, notes of sweet vanilla oak. Followed by spices and dried fruit notes of apricots, figs, and dates.
  • Finish – Long and balanced between sweetness and dry oak. A bit of water softens the spicy kick and adds even more sweetness and vanilla.

For more information, please visit www.thebalvenie.com.

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  1. Plaz on January 5, 2010 at 8:11 am

    I am madly in love with the Balvenie 17 SherryOak, and in deep despair that it is steadily vanishing from shelves everywhere.

    Look forward to trying out the 17 year-old Madeira cask as a viable substitute.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. thirstyinla on January 5, 2010 at 8:50 am

    You’re welcome, Plaz!

  3. Kevin Gray on January 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Such a great whiskey. The balance of honeyed vanilla with dried fruit spice is impressive. I’m depleting my bottle more quickly than I should, given its rarity.

  4. thirstyinla on January 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

    My thoughts exactly, Kevin! Hard to resist its siren call, and yet we must make it last…

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