Night Two of my three part Balvenie sampler brings me to another river that I can’t step in twice. I shared a bottle of this with some good friends back several years ago; our general takeaway from the experience came down to “Good, but very sweet.” Trying it tonight, I can’t say that I find the dram off-puttingly sweet, though it is definitely sweet, but I also can’t say that I find this a particular step up from its younger sibling. There’s no question that the rum cask influence here is heavy - there’s a big, distinct brown sugar hit right away on both the nose and the palate. I also get honey, custard tart, and a little cinnamon, the latter two reminding of pasteis de nata, and a familiar whiff of pipe tobacco. The palate is heavy on the front end with brown sugar; it becomes the main thing I can taste, but eventually it makes some space for black cardamom, clove, peppercorn, and a green grain note that wouldn’t be out of place in a single pot still. Truthfully…this isn’t Balvenie’s best work. Finishing casks are tricky, and rum barrel finishes often end up feeling like that man in the elevator who used way too much aftershave. The rummy brown sugar masks so much of the vibrancy and intricacy of the actual whisky, which even a younger Balvenie expresses effortlessly. If this were a youngish NAS, I’d perhaps be more forgiving, but this is really an unfortunate way to treat this malt.