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June 20, 2024

The Balvenie: Made by Heart, Crafted with Patience

The story of The Balvenie’s incredible whiskies involves age-old expertise, intuition, and the craft of coopering as old as whisky itself. Traditional crafts of Malt Whisky Making still flourish at The Balvenie distillery, which makes the whisky a treasure for connoisseurs of single malt whisky. The Balvenie represents one of the rare few single malt distilleries that is so conscious of its quality, it grows its own barley. Part of the portfolio of William Grant & Sons, it is a rare gem that is truly grainto-glass. The Balvenie is produced in small batches, each handcrafted using the five rare crafts of whisky making.

For the discerning whisky consumer, The Balvenie is always a top-of-the-shelf feature in their home bars, with the rarest of expressions from the brand always finding a special spot in the hearts and minds of those who truly appreciate great Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Time-tested methods are employed to ensure heritage passes down with each bottle of The Balvenie. The Balvenie is best known for its cask finishes, which gives its whiskies its unforgettable taste. The Speyside distillery has a wide range of whiskies, from The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years, to The Balvenie 60-year-old. 

The Five Rare Crafts:

The distillery began production in 1892 in Dufftown, Scotland, and since the beginning, it has represented whisky that is the result of passion. The Balvenie’s uniqueness comes from the five rare crafts involved in its whisky making, that lends the classic taste to every bottle by The Balvenie. The first and foremost craft is that of growing produce, made by committed farmers, who ensure precision and skill in harvesting and sowing at the right time. Dodging the unpredictable weather of Scotland, the homegrown produce leads to a superior ingredient. The Scottish distillery retains traditional ways of processing the produce, and that is one of the reasons for preserving the original taste. The second craft that makes The Balvenie unique, is the fact that the distillery still possesses a malting floor, and malts its own barley. It is one of the few malting rooms still active in Scotland. The room witnesses all the homegrown barley soaked in water from nearby springs. Here the Malt Men turn the grain by hand to ensure it germinates evenly, ensuring The Balvenie’s consistent taste across batches. The shape and size of the copper stills is another characteristic that lends The Balvenie its one-of-a-kind taste. A rare craft that is crucial in giving The Balvenie its honeyed flavour. However, arguably the biggest contributor to the final taste is the fourth rare craft – the cooperage – which have the highest quality of casks. Casks play a crucial role in shaping The Balvenie’s distinct flavours and expressions. Repairing, rebuilding, filling, and sealing casks demand a distinguished level of skill, hard work, dedication, and respect for tradition. The Balvenie has a trusted team of coopers who are responsible for the maintenance and preparation of the casks at its on-site cooperage. In fact, The Balvenie pioneered the art of cask finish with David Stewart, the erstwhile Malt Master for the brand, and the rarest of the crafts. These round-up the five rare crafts that represent The Balvenie’s artisanal finesse and refinement, and make it a drink like no other.

On the Nose:

The Balvenie’s current Malt Master Kelsey McKechnie was first appointed for the position as Apprentice Malt Master at age 26, making her the youngest woman to shoulder such immense responsibility. Since former Malt Master David C Stewart, MBE, handed over the baton in 2022, she has been an integral member of the team, her prowess shaping the future of The Balvenie. Kelsey’s background in science, and her love for whisky distilling has ensured that she is apt for the title of the Malt Master at the distillery. She succeeds Stewart’s legacy, who had been honoured by prestigious institutions and won several awards for his work at the distillery. Stewart nosed over 400,000 whisky casks over his illustrious career at The Balvenie. In India, The Balvenie has a range of three very distinct expressions, The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask Aged 14 Years, and The Balvenie Portwood Aged 21 Years. While all are unmistakably classics under The Balvenie portfolio, each expression has a distinctive taste, but all share a rich, honeyed character.

The Balvenie DoubleWood:

This highly-awarded whisky has sweet tasting notes. It is aged for 12 years in American Oak ex-bourbon casks before maturing for another nine months in Spanish oak ex-sherry casks. Another four months is spent in marrying tuns, giving it the name ‘DoubleWood’. On the nose, it has sweet fruity notes, Oloroso sherry notes, layered with honey and vanilla. It has a nutty sweetness, cinnamon-y spiciness, and a delicately proportioned layer of sherry, with a long and warm finish. 

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask:

Aged 14 years, the Caribbean Cask is matured in traditional American Oak casks. It is further finished in casks that have held a blend of Caribbean rums that adds a tropical sweetness to its expression. Rich sweet and creamy toffee notes combined with fruity notes on the nose, its taste is rounded with vanilla and sweet oak notes, with a fruity character that develops with time. This whisky is ideal for a solo treat, and lends itself to a blissful evening in its company, with a soft and lingering finish. 

The Balvenie PortWood: 

This extremely rare and old Balvenie is made after 21 years in a classic American Oak cask, before going through another four months of finishing in vintage port pipes. After spending another four months in marrying tuns, this highly celebrated spirit is bottled. A perfume of fruity and ripe raisin notes, backed by a dry nuttiness. Refined with remarkable character, it is creamy and silky with fruit, honey and spice notes. The finish is long, gentle and nutty, this whisky is one to be savoured with its unique cask finish. It’s the heart and the passion that goes into each bottle. The dedication. The commitment. The obsession. This is what elevates the expert to the extraordinary. It takes skill to make something great. It requires a heart to make something extraordinary.

Anushka Manik

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