ballindalloch 2015 2016 benelux review

3 Ballindalloch: Vintage 2015 / Single Bourbon Barrel 2016 / Single Sherry Butt 2015

Good things come to those who wait. Or so the saying goes.

The owners of Ballindalloch Distillery have been patient, only releasing their whisky after a minimum of 8 years of maturation. This Speyside single malt has now reached European shores as well. Today, I review three new releases for the Benelux. First, a small batch Ballindalloch Vintage 2015. Then two single casks, a 2016 ex-bourbon barrel and 2015 ex-sherry butt.

I visited Ballindalloch in 2019 and, had they offered me, I would’ve bought a cask right then and there. The in-depth tour was simply remarkable. The distillery’s background inspiring. Build in converted farm buildings, all barley is grown on the estate. The distillery is as manual as they come.

‘Steady as she goes’. That seems to be to motto. There was no rush or pressure to release whisky. At the time of my visit, I couldn’t wait for a first sip of Ballindalloch’s whisky. Almost five years later that moment has finally arrived. How time flies.


Ballindalloch Vintage 2015 (48.5%, OB for Benelux, 2024)

Nose: Spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, stand out initially. That’s quickly followed by a faint minerality, gentle floral notes and an elegant zestiness. Barley husks linger in the background, as well as candle wax and resin. Finally whispers of overripe banana and butterscotch.
Taste: Arriving on notes of peanuts, some white pepper and ginger. Subtle citrus notes, then some white chocolate, fudge and melted butter. Also some underripe pineapple, more barley husks and stewed pears.
Finish: Medium length. A faint waxiness, some gentle yellow fruit and quinces.

Good but… Generic isn’t the right word. This is a characterful distillate, yet it might be a little on the safe side. It seems to fit the traditional Speyside character. Having tasted two cask strength releases as well (below), I’m not sure if the reduction in strength of the Ballindalloch Vintage 2015 hasn’t been slightly detrimental.


Ballindalloch 2016 Single Ex-Bourbon Barrel (59.2%, OB for Benelux, C#31)

Nose: Opening up on juicy pears and apples, but also some oak spices. Then notes of caster sugar, just a sliver of wet pebbles, grape must and just a twist of lemon. I get a subtle waxiness too, accompanied by tired leather, cinnamon, vanilla and just a touch of marshmallow.
Taste: Good oily mouthfeel. Rich. Initially spice-forward. Ginger, white pepper. Also somewhat leafy, but the notes of butterscotch, floral honey and white and yellow fruits are very convincing. Grapes, apples, lemons. Finally just a tinge of eucalyptus.
Finish: Medium length. The fruitiness persists. Also sweeter, more sugar-y notes.

No disrespect to the Vintage 2015, but this is certainly much more like it. The higher strength translated to more richness without any additional harshness. I could do without some of the spices, but that seems to be part of Ballindalloch’s distillery character.


Ballindalloch 2015 Single Ex-Sherry Butt (60.5%, OB for Benelux, C#108)

Nose: A hint of nail polish along with dark spices. This needs a little time to open up. There’s a sliver of leather alongside cinnamon and nutmeg. Also, stewed apples, tobacco, charred oak and raspberries. Finally, hints of plums, the faintest touch of resin and almond oil.
Taste: Mouthfeel is decently creamy. Quite a spicy arrival though. A good amount of black pepper, but also cloves and green walnuts. Hints of teak and pine resin, but then cocoa powder, cranberries and brown sugar. Water brings out notes of strong breakfast tea.
Finish: Medium to long. Hints of chocolate, slivers of steeped barley and more tobacco.

This is a whisky that shouldn't be rushed. A powerhouse, but ultimately rewarding if you spend time with it – and play around with water. Don't expect a (polished) sherry bomb, but rather a gently sherried, rather oak-forward, high-strength single malt. I wonder whether Ballindalloch might just be one of those new makes suited for very long maturation. Time will tell.

Samples provided by Whisky Import Nederland

Photos: Passion for Whisky

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