Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask & Drinking at Home

I’ve decided to take this moment to opine on something that is dear to me: drinking well. Now while this will mean different things to different people at different times, today I want to talk about the selection of our spirits when we imbibe. While we are in a economic downturn right now, it is common knowledge that people are drinking just as much as they were when they were flush, they’ve just opted for less expensive options, and this pains me down to my soul.

A little time ago I posted some Scotch options for Xmas presents and one of the comments that were posted asked why all of the options were so pricy, and why I hadn’t decided to give people many options that were under $75. Now while many of you may whole heartedly agree and loudly proclaim that spending $75, $100 or even $150 is way too much to spend on a bottle of booze, I invite you to do a little math with me.

Figuring that a bottle of hooch has approximately 17 servings, one can deduce that a $120 bottle of quality spirits will cost you approximately seven dollars per serving. Seven dollars.  As a barkeep for many years, I can tell you of the numerous masses that don’t flinch at dropping $15 for a Grey Goose martini, but would seriously balk at paying $120 for a bottle for the home bar. The same goes to the classic cocktail connoisseur that pays $12-$15 for that well designed cocktail. Yet if one thinks of that pricey bottle of booze as an investment into better drinking for the future, a plethora of fabulous bottlings awaits!

Am I saying that one can’t find great spirits for $50, $30 of even $15? Absolutely not (I’m looking at you Rittenhouse bonded). Am I saying that one always has to mix with three digit bottles? Of course not. All I am saying is that if one goes out of their comfort levels to buy a bottle outside of what one would normally pay, not only will you end up drinking better, but on those occasions when you do have a drink at home, you will be able to crack open something “special” and at a fraction of the cost of the drinks that you would imbibe so readily on a Friday night at your favorite watering hole.

I bring this to your attention, because a little while ago I was presented with a wonderful bottling of the elegant and graceful Balvenie 17-year Madeira Cask. As I have been immensely enjoying it over the last two months, I felt that if I just suggested it as a potential future purchase, many of you would look at the price tag and immediately strike it from further thought, but as a bottle that runs around $120, you would be dismissing a wonderful scotch that will only set you back around seven dollars a serving.  And that would be a great shame.

The Balvenie 17-year Madeira Cask is Grace Kelly to a Laphroig’s Mae West. While this isn’t a dram that will wow the lover of Islay’s peat bombs, it will amaze those who dig Speyside’s contributions and it might even convert a bourbon drinker or two. This Balvenie expression has tons of spicy Xmas cake (dried fruits like apple, apricot and fig with nutmeg and cinnamon) followed by a nice long spicy vanillin finish. I find the Madeira finish even more integrated then their well-vaunted Rum finish, and at 17 years the barrel doesn’t overtake the dram, which I feel is beginning to happen with their 21 year Portwood finish. (Having said that, I still wouldn’t throw the Portwood finish out of bed for leaving crumbs, or wood chips as the case may be.)

I’m going to suggest something that may seem like sacrilege to many of you: let’s make a cocktail with this fine spirit! Again, let’s keep in mind that the final cost of this cocktail will come in around $8, a bargain for having a cocktail that you would probably never consider at you local bar. So crack open the seal and let’s prepare a:


1 ¾ oz Scotch
¾ oz Carpano Antica
1/8 oz absinthe
2 dashes Bitter Truth orange bitters
stir with ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
(circa 1935)

I had first discovered this twist on a Rob Roy (or perhaps a Bobby Burns) many moons ago in David Wondrich’s wonderful tome, Esquire Drinks. The Borden Chase is named after the American writer born as Frank Fowler who changed his moniker, it is said, after enjoying some Borden Milk while looking across the street at the Chase Manhattan bank. His choice could’ve been a lot worse if he’d had Leigh Valley whilst gazing upon Wachovia, methinks.

While preparing this drink, be careful with the absinthe, as it could quickly overtake the other flavours if poured with a heavy hand and if you can’t find Bitter Truth’s wonderful bitters (and they are available in the US now) Angostura orange will do in a pinch.

I hope that I’ve convinced you that there is value to drinking better, if not at your favorite bar, then at least at your home, and remember, when making cocktails, your end result will only be as good as your weakest link, so let’s not chince out on any of the ingredients!


Picture by:
Jamie Boudreau
Cocktail Whisperer



~ by Jamie Boudreau on March 11, 2010.

18 Responses to “Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask & Drinking at Home”

  1. Here here! A wonderful post.

  2. I couldn’t have put it better myself!
    I finally splurged on that bottle of Chartreuse VEP I’d been eying for months – I know I won’t regret one drop of it, and just try finding it anywhere for less than $8 a glass!

  3. Correction to my flagrant display of illiteracy two comments up: Hear! Hear!

  4. The Balvenie Deconstruction Dinner began with a round of Blood & Sand cocktails, made with the 12-year DoubleWood. Sacrilege or not, they were excellent. Thanks for posting the Borden Chase recipe, can’t wait to take it for a spin!

  5. I couldn’t agree more. I just got a bottle of 21 year old Glennlivet and I love it and think that it is well worth it. Same theories go for wine as well. Great bottle under a hundred that I recomend and want to brag about because I just got is Ransom’s old Tom gin and it is awesome. 50 dollars with shipping to bama

  6. […] Balvenie 17yr Madeira Cask & Drinking at Home « Share and […]

  7. I would hazard a guess that many of those complaining about spending $75+ on a Christmas gift were complaining about just that, not the general concept of a $75 bottle of hooch.

    That said, when I go out on a Tuesday (I’ll leave Friday to the amateurs), cost is definitely a consideration. Well, at least for the first two drinks. $12 for a cocktail seems exceedingly expensive to me, and $15 ridiculous. For $15, I want to know my server has a retirement plan and health insurance with full medical and dental.

    My watering hole of choice, a certain Seattle institution that’s the ultimate in alliteration (so to speak) offers expertly crafted cocktails at $5 during happy hour. The price bumps up to $9 outside of happy hour. The reasonable prices definitely help keep me going back.

  8. Nick S:
    We are indeed lucky to live in a city with a bar of the quality of ZZ, and that the average price of a quality cocktail in little ol’ Seattle is around $10. This is not the case in many larger cities in the US, where $12-$15 is the norm, or if we skip over to Europe, we’re lucky to pay $15.

  9. It’s hard to disagree with you Jamie, but it all boils down to a matter of priority. The majority of people who read this blog are presumably spirit enthusiasts, and will by default prioritize the same way you do. I would much rather have one fine drink instead of ten crappy – you can always spice up your evening with a few pints of beer.

    I’m from Copenhagen, Denmark, and you guys are indeed lucky to be able to buy cocktails for under 10$. If it’s worth drinking in Denmark, it’s at least 20$. The money I would spend on a plane ticket to the states, would quickly match the amount I would save on the drinking!

  10. While bartending, I once watched a girl dump a $20.00 snifter of cognac into here coke back. Her gentleman friend and I had simulanious heart attacks. True story! can anyone say E$J

  11. […] образцы шотландского винокурения. И как пример – опыт Jamie Boudreau с роскошными Balvenie и Carpano Antica весной этого года. December 8th, 2010 | Tags: cocktail, I love it | Category: […]

  12. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same information you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  13. […] http://spiritsandcocktails​​balvenie-17yr-madeira-cask​-drinking-at-… […]

  14. […] so please let me know if someone makes his own Borden Chase. And in the end I have to admit that Jamie Boudreau’s experience was inspirational for […]

  15. The Madeira island is a beautiful place for tourist and holiday.Thank you for sharing information about Madeira Island drinks and famous wines.Find more Madeira prices for tour to this island.

  16. This is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!

  17. […] be afraid to occasionally mix with it. It’s totally worth it. Worried about the cost? Mr. Boudreau has this excellent article on the cost breakdown. We have our everyday brands that work perfectly well, but every once in a while it’s really […]

  18. wh0cd604833 price of strattera

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: