Tasting Review: The Balvenie Cocktail Event in Houston

I was excited about going to the Balvenie tasting event. I have been to quite a few tastings, but this one seemed special. Most tastings are in bars or liquor stores, but this one wasn't. It was in a rented space. It seemed like it would be more like the Chivas Brotherhood, which I reviewed last year. That was a fun time with bartenders who made drinks specifically with the Chivas scotch. Balvenie is different, of course. It isn't a mixing scotch, although it would make for a good Blood and Sand, mind you.

When I pulled up to the Balvenie venue, the place was packed, and the valet parking boys were going nuts. Yes, there was valet parking, and only valet parking. There was a line of people out the door, too.

I gave my keys to the valet guy (which I hate doing), got in line, waited for about twenty minutes, and was finally allowed in. There were three tables, each with a different scotch. And that was it. There was a special room that I realized had something in it, too.  I asked, and they told me that the special room had their fancy scotches in it, but the line to get in snaked around the entire complex, and I wasn't willing to wait. So I had my three scotches in about 30 minutes, and then left.

This Balvenie event wasn't really like a tasting; it was more like an exhibition. Would have been cool if I had brought a date that actually liked scotch. But, alas, my wife thinks it all tastes like lighter fluid. See her review of Absolut Peppar for her take on liquor.Besides, someone had to watch the kids.

The Balvenie scotch, however, was excellent, so I am glad I went. It's never a bad time when I get to try three scotches, even if I am by myself in a posh place with poshy people. I guess that's the scotch demographic, though.

I tried three scotches:

The 14-year Caribbean Rum Cask is aged in bourbon barrels and then transferred to rum barrels. This was the most flavorful scotch there. The smell was great, with cinnamon and spice, but it did have a lot of alcohol burn. The spice and caramel and ginger were delicious, but I just couldn't get over the burn. I was expecting something different from a highland malt. This one was all over the tongue, a bit like hot peppers or hot tamales. It bounced around the mouth. If it weren't for the burn, it would have been my favorite.

The 15-year Single Barrel is the quintessential highland malt. Very sweet, very smooth, and very caramelly, like a delicate flan. This is a scotch that I can drink all night.

The 12-year Doublewood was similar to the 15-year Single Barrel, but not quite as sweet. It is very smooth, too, but nearly as much sweetness. It reminds me of the Deanston that I like so much.




Don't neglect Balvenie, but don't go to their roadshow expecting a class. Instead, take a date, and enjoy the ambiance and people watching.