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The Balvenie Distillery Caribbean Cask 14 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review: A Gateway to the Wonderful World of Malts

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

While is not primarily focused on reviewing single malt Scotch whisky, as should be apparent by my inclusion of the 'e' in my titular spelling of whiskey, I do find myself quite malt curious these days and have had a pretty impressive crash course in the category by some of the most knowledgeable folks in the industry. The word whiskey is traditionally employed by whiskey-producing countries whose names contain the aforementioned letter (Ireland or America), while Scotland prefers their Gaelic derivation of Uisce beatha, or the water of life, to be spelled whisky. Since we will be reviewing a single malt scotch here today, I'll be regularly running my spell check to be consistent with 'whisky'.

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

For a little background on The Balvenie Distillery, you may be surprised to learn that this Speyside distillery in Dufftown, Scotland, is one of only seven distilleries with their own malting floor. Floor malting is a traditional method of malting grain that dates back thousands of years. It is part of the germination and fermentation process that occurs after the steeping and wetting process, where the grain is spread out and turned over on a concrete floor. Sugars are produced during this process as fuel for further fermentation that will result in the creation of alcohol that we are ultimately looking for in this whole process. As the natural grain transformation occurs, it's up to the maltsman to decide when enough of those catalysts (sugar and enzymes) are present to pull the grain for the next phase in the whisky-making process.

In the old days before health codes and industrial automation equipment, these malting floors would be turned over with a big shovel, an arduous task for anyone, eventually resulting in strain injuries. These workers had a name for the ailment that came with shoveling malt for too long; just like athletes today may complain of tennis elbow or golfer's elbow, these malting floor workers would end up with an arm that would hang down a bit like a monkey's, so they called it Monkey's Shoulder. That same name is now used by a brand of blended malt Scotch, which consists of Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie whisky. I remember drinking that and liking it a bit in my earliest days of whiskey exploration, believe it or not.

The Balvenie Distillery is owned by William Grant & Sons, founded by the man himself, William Grant, who was born in 1839. He produced the first whisky in the 18th-century mansion called the 'Balvenie New House' in 1893 and never looked back. The rich history of the distillery was both carried on by and innovated through the masterful work of David Stewart, MBE, Balvenie's Malt Master. He was the first to create the process that would later be known as wood finishing, where whiskies are further matured in variations in cask type, much like the release we are reviewing today. To use this whisky as the primary example, it began its maturation in traditional whisky oak casks before being transferred into casks that previously held Caribbean rum for a final period of maturation. After 14 years, it is then finished in American oak casks that previously held a blend of West Indian (widely known to be Cuban) rums. The subtle influence that can come from a tasteful cask finishing program is something that can be slightly divisive in the American whiskey industry but is fairly common in Scotch and Irish whiskey, with port and sherry being common cask finishes adorning labels far and wide.

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Widely regarded as a great starting place for those who are malt-curious, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask carries a nice age statement, won't blow your socks off with the traditional 'too smoky' flavor profile that can scare off the more delicate palates, and is reasonably priced in the grand scheme of things. Ready to find out if this should be your next whisky purchase? Let's dive into a full review and find out!


Company on Label: The Balvenie Distillery

Whiskey Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Mash Bill Percentages: 100% Malted Barley

Proof: 86°

Age: 14 years

Further identification: This regularly available shelf staple carries an MSRP of $88


Nose: Peach and cotton candy sweetness waft off the glass and can be picked up from several feet away. Oily cream frosting invades the nose upon first lifting the glass. Sugar cookie and candy peach ring notes present an approachable dessert. The nose presents waves of classic, funky toffee vibes that should serve as a welcome introduction for those new to barrel aged malt. Sweet honey is a dominant characteristic of the well-rested glass. Overall, the nose presents rather simple but quite enjoyable. Some characteristics of the American oak can be found. Let's have a sip.

Returning to the glass offers a deeper wave of honey that the palate exudes in troves. Dried plum and raisin notes can be found on deep inhales; everything presents itself rather daintily to the senses. Delicate magnolia florality builds well with time. The empty glass smells of gear oil, suntan lotion, and an old blanket chest filled with dusty bed coverings. There's a nostalgic beauty to be found here.

Palate: Oily, pot-still-induced caramel and sugar cookie tones shine on this dram from the start. The mouth coating is thick and pervasive, with honey, vanilla, and mango. Another sip multiplies the oily tones while adding soft layers of vanilla bean ice cream and hints of pear. The rum finish is barely perceptible here, a testament to the fact that the base whisky is what really was intended to shine. A tingle begins to form on subsequent tastes as nutmeg, allspice, and just a kiss of smoke imparted onto toasted wheat bread can be discovered. My last sip is quite sweet again, with honey prevailing atop bits of floral notes like heather and lavender. The finish is long with persistent oily, pot still crema and black tea. It's easy sipping whisky intended to be shared with friends and family at any time. I find this sips best on a hot day while staying refreshed and hydrated, where it shimmers across the tongue like bright sunlight being filtered through a verdant canopy of green leaf trees.


Rating: 3/5

This is a whisky that was first recommended to me by the magnanimous Amanda Young, better known as @DuchessOfIslay on Instagram, and now I am here to recommend it to you, my dear reader. It serves as a wonderful introduction to Scotch if you don't know where to start. Because it's rather one-dimensional, if you're a veteran of malts, it likely won't do much for you outside of being incredibly approachable. It is at the very least a wonderful lesson in the effects of pot still distillation, as well as the perfect gateway to single malts if you're new to the category.

Nick Anderson - Whiskey Writer and Owner of
With nearly a decade of sipping experience, Nick Anderson brings a well-calibrated palate to his profound passion for the whiskey industry. Beginning in Irish whiskey before expanding into bourbon, rye, and beyond, he has long been taking the ephemeral observation of unspoken enjoyment and translating it into meaningful words. He is the owner and primary long-winded whiskey writer for, and he hopes you find resonance in the patient conveyance of an honest whiskey review.



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