Balvenie Portwood 21yr & 21yr Duty-Free – a side by side tasting.

Speyside region — 43% ABV (standard bottling) & 47.6% (duty free only bottling) – SB: $125 | £75 | €88DFO: £69 | €81

It’s no secret my love for The Balvenie runs deep.  Their whiskies can be delicate, complex, bold, intriguing, thick and rich, light and peppery, etc…  However, what you can always count on are the “classic honeyed Balvenie notes”.  Unmistakable.

You can find all of my Balvenie reviews here.

A while back Sam Simmons gave me a sample of The Balvenie 21yr Portwood Duty Free expression which is both non-chill filtered and has a higher ABV (47.6% as opposed to the standard 43% — the 43% being chill filtered, by the way).

Sam, thanks again!

I’ve been holding off on posting my thoughts on that whisky as I had not yet posted my thoughts on the standard 43% ABV Balvenie Portwood.  I now have some of that 21yr Portwood.

A big thanks goes out to Andrew Weir for that sample!

There is something so rewarding about The Balvenie Portwood.  Come on folks, this is expensive stuff.  Not an everyday drinker.  You break it out for that special, joyous occasion; or perhaps you buy it for a loved one or your boss.  So, to taste two different Portwood whiskies in one sitting… Man, I felt like I was treating myself to a world class massage — my happy ending being The Balvenie x 2!

Balvenie, me love you long time!

Time to share the experience:

On the nose 43% Classic honeyed Balvenie nose with a good deal of black pepper notes.  Something astringent here; perhaps a touch of witchhazel.  Black grapes.  Honey peppercorn salad dressing.  Poached pear and a touch of green apple.  Oranges.  A tad salty.

On the nose 47.6% Duty Free Somehow, even with the higher ABV, the nose is softer here.  Much like the off the shelf stuff but with added elements of salted toffee.  Not as peppery as the standard stuff.

On the mouth 43% Sweet blessed Benjamin, that’s good!  Big grapes.  A good deal of pepper & bite.  Hot pepper and honey.  There’s a creaminess to this whisky that somehow offsets all of the spicy bits I’m getting here.  Cool.

On the Mouth 47.6% Duty Free A world of difference in the mouth feel.  Excessively oily.  And, though I really don’t like to use this as a descriptor, Sssssmmmmooootttthhhh!  Buttery smooth.  It must be the non-chill filtering – leaving in all of those great fatty acids! Earthier in flavor, almost mushroomy but still very sweet with the grapes and the “hey-hey and the pretty lady!!” (sorry, my inner Jerry Lewis came out.  Yes, I have an inner Jerry Lewis.  You don’t??).

Deep red fruits – over ripe strawberry, strawberry & rhubarb compote.

G-d, I love this!

Finish 43% Long with hints of hazelnuts and vanilla.

Finish 47.6% Duty Free Much more nutty on the finish, lasting vanilla and more honey.

In sumIt’s amazing what 4.6% more alcohol and non-chill filtering can do!  I am not knocking the standard 43% 21yr Portwood – it’s a solid, kick-ass dram but, this duty-free stuff was on a whole other level – especially with the mouthfeel – ah’good G-d y’all!

Both are celebratory drams.  Go ahead, give yourself a happy ending and enjoy some Balvenie Portwood soon!