The Balvenie whisky is one of those brands of Scotch Whisky anyone should taste at least once in their lifetime. That is why we have included some of its expressions in whisky tasting boxes sent to our customers in the past.
This Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky brand has been around since 1893 and keeps on reinventing itself to deliver wonderful and flavourful whisky.
In this article, we’ll go through a little bit of the history of The Balvenie and uncover the reasons why this brand won its great reputation.
We’ll also tell you more about its expressions, including the ones we included in previously sent Whisky Tasting Boxes.
Table of Contents – Sip this article!
- What Makes The Balvenie Whisky So Special?
- The Balvenie Whisky Favour Profile and Expressions
Located in Dufftown, in the Speyside region of Scotland, The Balvenie officially started its production on the 1st of May, in 1893 by the hand of William Grant. From the very beginning, The Balvenie is focused on producing outstanding and innovative Scotch Whisky and the brand has been successful on that purpose.
Maintaining the Five Rare Crafts, as the brand calls them, the whisky expressions produced in The Balvenie’s distillery are the most handcrafted of single malt scotch whiskies. That, alone, explains why this brand creates unique drams that make the wonders of both connoisseurs and newbies in the whisky world.
The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky is made in a Scottish town named Dufftown, in Speyside. The town is located between Aberdeenshire and Highland, being close to the shore and having access to fresh sources of water.
Dufftown is also known for producing more whisky than any other place in Scotland and for being the place of The Balvenie Castle, a mediaeval building from the 13th century.
Although most scotch whisky brands are hard to pronounce, The Balvenie whisky holds no secret. Phonetically, it is pronounced bal·veh·nee, but there are connoisseurs who pronounce bol-vainny, which is not incorrect either.
The name of the brand came from the Balvenie Castle and means “Village of Luck”.
The Balvenie Whisky has been produced for over 200 years using the “Five Rare Crafts”, as the brand calls every stage.
William Grant was the person that started it all and his methods are still used today, giving this Scotch whisky brand the title of “the most hand-crafted of single malts”. By combining centuries of experience with innovative innovation, The Balvenie is the perfect example on how to perfectly balance the past and the present when crafting Scotch whisky.
So, what are these Five Rare Crafts that make the Balvenie Whisky so special?
It all starts with the barley
The most important cereal used to produce whisky is grown by The Balvenie distillery exclusively for The Balvenie whisky production. The farm has a thousand-acre and the only technology the distillery uses is a combine harvester. Everything else is handcrafted, which translates into a unique character and flavour profile.
Then, there are the working floor maltings
There are only a few left in all Scotland, and The Balvenie distillery owns one of them. The malting floors are the rooms in which the barley is spread and left to germinate. Because it is done in a wide space, the “malt men” are able to turn it around until it is time for the grains to go for the kiln.
In the kilns, a little peat is added to give an extra layer of complexity to the The Balvenie whisky.
Next come the copper stills
The way the distillation takes place when crafting whisky matters a lot and has a direct impact on the whisky’s flavours, as well as its mouthfeel. The copper stills of this brand almost didn’t change since the distillery was founded and they are characterised by having a boil ball – the “Balvenie Ball” – and a kind of a “swan’s neck”, that is replicated in the whisky featured bottling.
The ball-shaped still enables the vapours to mix altogether, adding a lot more fruity and floral flavours to the whisky.
The 4th is in the casks
If you are a whisky connoisseur, you know that most of the whisky’s flavour comes from the casks and the time of maturation. And it is in this final stage that The Balvenie invests the most.
To start with, the whisky brand lightly toasts the casks, so the wood sugar caramelises and the pores of the wood open.
And finally, the Malt Master
The final and, perhaps the most important “Rare Craft” of this Speyside Scotch whisky brand is the Malt Master himself. David Stewart is the master that has been doing this job in the whole Scotch Whisky market, and has evaluated over 400,000 casks of The Balvenie Whisky.
He is the person that makes sure that every drop of whisky is good to be bottled at 12 year-old or stay in barrel for 21 or 30 years (or more!).
David Stewart was a true pioneer in the maturation process, as he came up with the “wood finishing” concept.
Right now, the Malt Master is teaching Kelsey, who is responsible for the consistency across barrels of the same expression and ensuring that the whisky is ageing as the brand wishes.
Among the range of the Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky lies expressions that have been awarded several times through the years, some of them are truly classics of Scotch whisky (like the Doublewood 12 Year-Old) and others are examples of innovation within the whisky world (such as the 14 Year-Old Caribbean Cask).
In our Whisky Tasting Box, we have sent to our costumes the two expressions mentioned above, as well as expressions that no longer are in the core range of the brand, like the 10-Year-Old Founder’s Reserve and the Doublewood 17-Year-Old.
Although it is hard to characterise an overall flavour profile through all expressions on the The Balvenie whisky range, there are some details that are transversal to most of them.
Given that this is a scotch whisky produced in Speyside’s region, one can expect the flavour profile to be smooth and fruity, with some floral hints, given the type of barley used, but mostly, given the distillation process.
The Balvenie is not known for being peated or smoky whisky, although the brand has a whole line of peated scotch whisky and some expressions might have a light flavour of smoke.
Overall, the Balvenie has a honeyed background flavour, a note that pops-up due to the light toasting of the barrels. The fact that most expressions age in a combination of two or more types of casks, the expressions are quite complex and very rich.
The expressions we will present you in this section of the article are the one we have sent to our clients, considering their whisky subscription.
The Balvenie Doublewood 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This expression was the first in the Scotch whisky world to be released with a wood finishing method of maturation. The Balvenie Doublewood 12-Year-Old was launched in 1993 and it is still a classic for scotch whisky connoisseurs.
The spirit matures for 12 years in Ex-Bourbon casks and finishes its ageing in ex-Oloroso sherry casks for nine months.
Because it matures in ex-bourbon, it gains a delicate character. On the other hand, the Oloroso sherry casks add richness and sweet fruit aromas and flavours. Vanilla and honey are also present in this dram.
The finish is long, smooth and with hints of cinnamon.
The Balvenie Doublewood Caribbean Cask 14-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This The Balvenie whisky expression is made through a fine process of hand selection. The Doublewood Caribbean cask 14-Year-Old is matured in american oak casks for the majority of time but its finish has a twist.
The brand’s Malt Master filled american oak casks with hand-selected rum. Those were the casks used for the finishing of this whisky expression.
Due to this combination, this whisky has the standard The Balvenie flavour profile with the fresh fruit notes so characteristic of rum.
On the nose, it has sweet and fruity aromas and, on the mouth, it has notes of toffee, vanilla, fresh fruit and oak.
The Balvenie Single Barrel 15-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This is another classic expression from The Balvenie line. Because it is a Single Barrel, it means that it only exists in a limited number of bottles. Our clients were lucky enough to receive a whisky miniature of this expression.
This dram was matured for 15 years solely in one barrel made of European Sherry Oak, launching around 800 bottles of this The Balvenie whisky expression.
As singular as it is, the Single Barrel 15-Year smells like dried fruit and nuts in the background. Regarding the flavour notes, it has a round mouthfeel, sweet oak notes, as well as cinnamon and sherry flavours.