Located in Dufftown in the Speyside region of Scotland, The Balvenie distillery dates back to 1892 when William Grant converted an 18th century mansion into a distillery. Production began in May of 1893 and has continued until today. Many of the original components are still in use like the traditional malting floor which is quite uncommon in modern distilleries. The Balvenie employs extremely skilled and dedicated craftsmen who have an in-depth understanding of their craft which allows them to create a unique malt.
The Balvenie takes a unique approach to their distilling process which focuses on five rare crafts. It is the only distillery that practices these five crafts on site.
- Home Grown Barley
- Malting Floor
- Copper Stills
- Malt Master
Home Grown Barley:
Spanning 1,000 acres Balvenie’s barley farm named Balvenie Mains overlooks the Balvenie distillery. Each year the distillery sows and grows its barley the traditional way. The only piece of modern technology used is a combine tractor for harvesting. The skill required by their farmers is immense as the Scottish Highlands weather can be very unpredictable and knowing when to plant is critical.
The Balvenie is one of only seven distilleries with its very own malting floor. The process begins right after steeping the barley in locally sourced spring water. The barley is laid out on the traditional malting floor where it is turned by hand until it is ready for the kiln.
The stills used have changed very little since the beginning. They have maintained their ball shape with a bulge at the bottom of what is referred to as the swans neck. This feature helps the vapors mix before exiting the head. This is all maintained by a team of coppersmiths who ensure that the stills don't fall into disrepair
A cooper is a person trained to make wooden casks, or barrels, from timber staves that were usually heated or steamed to make them pliable. The apprenticeship to learn is a 4 year process with years of training afterwards as well. The Balvenie employs an on-site team of coopers stationed in their on-site cooperage. Having their own team of coopers allows the Balvenie to have complete control of the production of their barrels in order to get the perfect char on their barrels. Having their own cooperage is just another step towards complete vertical integration.
The person that brings all the pieces together to create delicious expression after expression pouring out of the distillery's casks. The Balvenie and the Scotch whisky industries longest serving Malt Master is none other then David C. Stewart MBE. He started off with a 12 year long apprentice to learn the craft in 1962. In 1974 he was appointed the role of Malt Master at William Grant & Sons. The role of malt master is to be an expert at nosing samples in order to create a balance of notes and consistent character. The malt master also decides which casks are ready for bottling and which need more time to mature as well as experimenting and deciding which casks get an additional cask finish.
Let us explore the diverse range of whiskies the the Balvenie has to offer
The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old is not surprisingly aged in two kinds of oak casks. First in refill American oak casks then finished in first fill European oak Oloroso sherry butts. This rich and complex dram is a great example of what Balvenie can do even with just 12 years.
This beautiful expression was first aged in traditional oak casks and finished in casks which previously held Caribbean rum. This lends some extra sweetness and a bit of spice. In order to create the perfect finish Balvenie malt master David C. Stewart made his very own blend of West Indian rums and stored them in casks which where then used to finish Balvenie whisky.
Very similar to the DoubleWood 12 Year Old with an added 5 years of maturation.
This flagship single malt of all of the Balvenie’s portwood whiskies. This 21 year old was matured in 30 year old port pipes. It's got fruit and a hint of smokiness with perfect balance.
Launched in 2019, The Balvenie Stories Range is made up of whiskies based upon the stories of the craftsmen and people that work at the distillery, with many of them developing their skills at the distillery over several generations.
This is the first release from The Balvenie Stories range! This expression takes inspiration from apprentice malt master Kelsey McKechnie and her idea to import virgin oak barrels from Kentucky and deeply toast them at the distillery's cooperage.
This is the second release of the Balvenie Stories Range. This expression is inspired by distillery manager Ian Millar installing a peat burner at Balvenie. For one week each year, the distillery created peated whisky using Speyside peat adding a touch of smokiness to classic Balvenie flavors.
This is the third release of the Balvenie Stories Range. This expression looks back to a day in 1992, when Balvenie mashman Brian Webster and maltman Robbie Gormley took in a delivery of dark barley, kicking off a long experiment with a delicious ending.
The youngest single barrel offering the Balvenie has in their line up. This bottle was drawn from a single barrel after being matured in first-fill bourbon casks for at least 12 years. Each comes labeled with the exact barrel number.
Next up in the single barrel line up, this 15 year old comes from specially selected single ex-bourbon casks.
The oldest in the single barrel selection offered by the Balvenie. Matured in refill American oak cask for a lengthy 21 years. This expression has absorbed lots of familiar honeyed barley notes, making for a delicious after meal dram.
Rare & Precious Range
This beautiful 30 year old expression was matured in a mixture of traditional oak and Sherry casks. The 2013 release won a Gold Outstanding at the IWCS and was crowned Best Speyside Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2013.
This outstanding 40 year old single malt was matured in traditional whisky cask and Sherry cask malts creating a stunning balance. This single malt is a really impressive addition to the Balvenie’s rare and precious range.
For more information checkout the Balvenie Distillery Website