I'm often asked, "What's a good $100 single malt I can buy for my friend/boss/husband/boyfriend? He doesn't want anything too smoky."
Usually, my first reaction is to think, "Why spend $100 when you can get Springbank 10 year for $50? If he can't enjoy that, he's a complete lowlife who should stick to vodka and Bud Light. And what kind of defective creep can't appreciate a little peat?" But rather than rant, I mostly just grumble, silently.
My much more polite, go-to answer since drinking this bottle: "Balvenie 15 year Single Barrel Sherry Cask."
This is the perfect malt for somebody who doesn't drink malts: approachable, fruity, and round. Even a lowly "bourbon-only" drinker could enjoy it. But it's complex enough for a mean-spirited whisky-bully like me: the sherry is fresh without any sulfur, and it's a bit like the nicer examples of Glendronach "single casks" (let's not get started on the whole problem of Glendronach dumping three barrels to produce a 650 bottle batch isn't actually a "single cask").
The sherry is strong on this one, mostly overpowering the spirit, but Balvenie isn't the strongest flavor to begin with, so I don't exactly feel like I'm missing much. The major vibe is lush fruit, probably more PX than oloroso, but it's not too sweet. For those who enjoy Aberlour A'Bunadh and the new Aberlour 12 year (46%--quite good!), this will be up your alley.
Balvenie is a big brand name, so this is also an excellent gift because people will recognize the cachet. That's half the battle, isn't it?
88 pts/B+. An excellent middle-aged sherry bomb. Not off-notes, solid proof and in the $85-110 range for that "I'm spending a bit too much on a present" for a loved one or not-too-evil boss. Surprisingly good stuff that can unite noobs and lords.