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THE BALVENIE         10 years old 43 %      INFO
FOUNDERS RESERVE  (old bottle)
William Grant & Sons Ltd,
The Balvenie Distillery, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         18 years old 43 %    INFO   
CLASSIC  (old bottle)
Probably The Finest Highland Malt Whisky
Probably The Finest Single Highland Malt
William Grant & Sons Ltd,
The Balvenie Distillery, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         10 years old 40%         
FOUNDERS RESERVE
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire
wordt niet meer geproduceerd

THE BALVENIE         12 years old 40 %           
D0UBLEW00D
Matured in Two Woods
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         15 years old 50,4%
LAST  BOTTLE  AND  EMPTY
       
SINGLE BARREL
from a single barrel
Bottled by Hand
No more than 300
Hand Numbered Bottles In Cask
Distilled: 13.7.82
Bottling Date 2.3.98
Cask No. 3283
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings,
Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         15 years old 50,4%         
SINGLE BARREL
from a single barrel Bottled by Hand
No more than 300
Hand Numbered Bottles In Cask
Distilled: 22.1.77
Bottling Date 27.4.94
Cask No. 269
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Duffown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         25 years old 46,9%         
SINGLE BARREL
Drawn from a Single Cask Hand Bottled
No more than 250
Hand Numbered Bottles In Cask
Date 2.8.74
Cask No. 10137
Bottling Date 11.9.00
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         21 years old 40 %                 
P0RTW00D
Extra Matured in Port Casks
Limited Release 1997
Maturation: American Oak, Portuguese Oak
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         33 years old 49,7 %            
VINTAGE CASK 1967
A Limited Edition of Rare Single Malt Whisky
Bottled from a Single Vintage Cask
Date 20th June 1967
Single Vintage Cask No. 9914
Bottling Date 27th Jan 2000
Hand Bottled 171 bottles
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         17 years old 43 %                
ISLAY CASK
Matured in Islay Whisky Casks
Only 94 Casks of
The Balvenie Islay Casks are bottled
Bottled: 2001
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE         15 years old 50,4%        
SINGLE BARREL
from a single barrel Bottled by Hand
No more than 350 Hand Numbered Bottles
In Cask Date 28.9.82
Cask No. 4860
Bottling Date 6.8.02
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE               40%          
1989
PORTWOOD
Extra Matured in Port Casks
Limited Release
Maturation: American Oak
Portuguese Oak
The Balvenie Distillery Company, Balvenie Maltings,
Dufftown, Banffshire.

BURN OF SPEYSIDE         6 years old 46 %     INFO      
Speyside Malt Whisky from
refill sherry hogsheads
Distilled 1996
Non - Chillfiltered
The Ultimate Whisky Company, N.L.

BURN OF SPEYSIDE         6 years old 46 %       INFO     
Speyside Malt Whisky from
refill bourbon barrels
Distilled 1996
Non - Chillfiltered
The Ultimate Whisky Company, N.L.

THE BALVENIE          Aged 14 years 47.1%        INFO  
RUMW00D
Finished in Rum Oak Casks
Limited Edition
Bottling Only 14 Casks
Drawn from Warehouse No. 29
Non-Chill Filtered
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

MONKEY SHOULDER         TRIPLE MALT 40 %      INFO
BATCH 27
SMOOTH AND RICH
BLENDED MALT SCOTCH WHISKY
From Three of Speyside's Finest Single Malts
Only 27 Casks
Distilled, Matured & Bottled in Dufftown
by William Grant & Sons Ltd,
Family owned since 1887
Dufftown, Banffshire
EMPTY

THE BALVENIE          Aged  17 years 40 %         INFO
NEWWOOD
Finished in New Oak Casks
Bottling only 79 Casks
Limited Release
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE          1991
LAST  BOTTLE  AND  EMPTY
                 
PORT   WOOD
Extra Matured in Port Casks
Limited Release
Maturation: American Oak
Portuguese Oak
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings Dufftown, Banffshire

THE BALVENIE    Aged 14 years       47.1 %      INFO
ROASTED MALT
Dark Poast Finished in Cask
Limited Edition Bottling
Only 34 Casks
Drawn from Warehouse no. 2 at
The Balvenie Distillery
Non - Chill Filtered
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE  BALVENIE      Aged 12 years  40 %                                       
SIGNATURE
LIMITED  BATCH  RELEASE
BATCH  No.  001
This Single Malt is a Unique Marriage
of Sherry, First Fill Bourbon and Refill
Casks. Each Bottle carries its own Batch no.
The Balvenie Distilling Co, Balvenie Maltings,
Dufftown, Banffshire

THE  BALVENIE          Aged 17 years  43 %           INFO              
RUM  CASK
Finished in Jamaican Rum Barrels
FIRST  EDITION  RELEASE  2008  
The Balvenie Distillery Co.
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

THE  BALVENIE          Aged 14 years  43 %                             
CUBAN  SELECTION
FINISHED  IN  CUBAN  RUM  CASKS
Matured in traditional oak whisky casks
to mellow the spirit and finished in barrels
that previously held Cuban Rum
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire
Characterised by toffee, vanilla and a hint of fruit.

THE  BALVENIE     Aged 17 years  43 %      INFO
PEATED  CASK
Limited Release
The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  THE  BALVENIE Aged  12 years  40 %                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

DOUBLE  WOOD                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

WOOD                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Matured in Two Distinct Casks                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

First Cask: Whisky oak                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Second Cask: Sherry oak                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Distilled at The Balvenie Distillery Co,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Dufftown, Banffshire

THE  BALVENIE INFO
Aged 16 years 40 %                 
TRIPLE  CASK
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Distilled at The Balvenie Distillery Company,
Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Banffshire

Highland Malt
Speyside
THE BALVENIE (1892


Dufftown, Banffshire. The Balvenie Distillery Company, Balvenie Maltings. Eigendom van William Grant & Sons Ltd.
De eerste steen werd gelegd in 1892 en de eerste spirit kwam op 1 Mei 1893 uit de ketels.
Het was een periode van grote bloei voor de Schotse whiskyindustrie, niet minder dan twintig distilleerderijen werden nieuw gebouwd rond 1890 rond Dufftown.
De heftige Campbeltown- en Islay single malt whiskies waren uit, de zachtere, vriendelijker Speyside single malt whiskies werden geliefder bij de blenders.
William Grant had Glenfiddich gebouwd in 1886 en de direkte aanleiding om The Balvenie te bouwen was dat Peter Dawson van Glen Rinnes het plan had naast Glenfiddich een stuk land te huren om er een distilleerderij te bouwen vanwege de uitstekende kwaliteit van het water van de Robbie Dubh bron.
Het bouwen van The Balvenie, aanvankelijk was de naam Glen Gordon, duurde vijftien maanden en de totale kosten bedroegen £ 2000.
The Balvenie begon met twee gebruikte ketels, één de low wine still was afkomstig van Lagavulin en de prijs bedroeg £ 47, de tweede ketel kwam van Glen Albyn en hier werd £ 93 voor betaald.
In 1899 stortte de whiskymarkt in, ingeluid door het frauduleus bankroet van de blenders Pattison te Leith.
Ook voor de firma Grant was het een ramp, de Pattison's waren de belangrijkste afnemers van Glenfiddich en The Balvenie.
Men besloot zelf te gaan blenden en rechtstreeks aan klanten te gaan leveren.
Na een heel moeilijke start was men in 1914 zover dat er naar dertig landen werd ge-ëxporteerd werd.
The Balvenie is een heel traditioneel bedrijf, de gerst komt deels van eigen akkers, er is een vloermouterij, een kuiperij en een kopersmid.
In 1957 werd er uitgebreid met twee ketels.
Er wordt gelagerd in nieuwe sherryvaten en vaten van Amerikaans eiken.
The Balvenie wordt pas sinds 1971 op grotere schaal als single malt whisky uitgebracht.
The Balvenie wordt gebotteld in de Glenfiddich distilleerderij.
Om te voorkomen dat onafhankelijke bottelaars Glenfiddich en The Balvenie uitbrengen als single malt whiskies bottelen, mengt men Glenfiddich met wat van The Balvenie, en The Balvenie met iets Glenfiddich.
Ze worden verkocht met de namen van respectievelijk Burnside en Warhead.
The Balvenie wordt gebotteld in de ernaast gelegen Glenfiddich distilleerderij.

De Mash tun is 10.2 ton, en er staan tien Wash backs van elk 50.000 liter.
Twee Wash stills zijn groot 9092 liter en twee elk 12,729 liter.
De vier Spirit stills zijn elk 12.729 liter groot.
De ketels worden met stoom verhit door middel van in de ketels liggende spiralen.
Op woensdag 8 Januari 2003 maakt de Balvenie distilleerderij bekend een vijftig jaar oude Balvenie Cask 191 uit te brengen. Het gaat om 83 flessen, gesigneerd door Maltmas

Voorjaar 1999 kregen de Edrington Group en Highland Distillers verschil van mening over het niet of wel aanhouden van de beursnotering.
September 1999 wordt bekend dat Edrington en William Grant & Sons samen Highland Distillers overnemen.
De naam van de nieuwe onderneming luidt: The 1887 Company, wat slaat op het stichtingsjaar van Highland Distillers.
Edrington verkrijgt 70 %-, William Grant & Sons 30 % van de aandelen'.
Ginger heet de kat van The Balvenie, eerder de huiskat van Glenfiddich, die Auld Granny in 1998 opvolgde, die met pensioen ging.
September 2004
Malt Master David Stewart is dertig jaar bij The Balvenie.
Ter gelegenheid daarvan wordt een 30 jaar oude The Balvenie uitgebracht bestaande uit malt whisky uit zijn eerste jaren bij The Balvenie, maarried in Bourbon vaten met voormalige oloroso sherry vaten.
David Stewart werd malt master in 1974.
2006  Kapaciteit:   5.600.000 liter spirit  per jaar.


BURN OF SPEYSIDE
Om te voorkomen dat derden Glenfiddich en The Balvenie uitbrengen als Single Malt WHiskies, mengt men bij Glenfiddich en The Balvenie, respectievelijk iet The Balvenie en Glenfiddich bij, als deze whiskies worden verkocht aan blenders.
Het zijn formeel dan vatted malts geworden. De namen zijn dan Wardhead en Burnside.
Op 26 November 2002 was er een aanvaring op de Nieuwe Waterweg waarbij drie schepen waren betrokken: de Hellenic Star, de West Express en de Western Trader.
Twee schepen de Hellenic Star en de West Express waren zeegaand, de Western Trader was binnenkomend en afkomstig uit Grangemouth in Schotland.
De Hellenic Star liep uit zijn roer en ramde de West Express, door deze aanvaring voer de Hellenic Star verder richting bakboord, waar door de tegemoet komende Westen Trader ook werd aangevaren, gevolg: een gat van 5 bij 10 meter en het schip maakte gelijk slagzij.
De Western Trader was geladen met onder andere 144 vaten Schotse malt whisky afkomstig van William Grant & Sons te Dufftown en bestemd voor Japan.
Whiskyhandelaar Han van Wees kocht de whisky en heeft die nu deels gebotteld,  de vaten met Wardhead worden op een later tijdstip gebotteld.

2008-04-16
William Grant & Sons Ltd laat twee ketels bouwen bij The Balvenie

  The Balvenie Classic 18 years
1993    The Balvenie Double Wood 12 years
1996    The Balvenie Port Wood 21 years
2001    The Balvenie Islay Cask 17 years
2002    The Balvenie Cask 191 with only 83 Bottles
2004    The Balvenie Thirty
2006 /
2010    The Balvenie 17 other Limited Editions are launched
2008    The Balvenie Signature
2010    The balvenie Forty
2011    The Balvenie Tun 1401

October 2012

The Balvenie Double Wood
has a new expression: 17 yeras old.                                                                                                                                                        


October 2012

The Balvenie releases a Triple Cask Range: 12- 16- and 25 years old

Each of which have been matured in three steps in three different barrels.

1.   First Fill Bourbon
2.   Refill Bourbon
3.   Sherry Casks

An exquisite marriage of The Balvenie matured for sixteen years in three distinct
cask types: Oloroso sherry butts, first fill bourbon barrels, and traditional whisky
casks. Characterised by vanilla sweetness and delicate fruit.

Each cask used in this batch of The Balvenie Triple cask was hand selected by David
Stewart, The Balvenie Malt Master.

Oloroso sherry butts, impart deep, rich fruit and subtle spice.
European oak casks that have held Oloroso sherry can go on to mature fine Scotch whisky.
The toasted wooden staves that form the cask impart further flavor and aroma to the whisky resting within.

First fillbourbon barrels, add subtle vanilla oak and sweetness.
The spirit is placed in charred oak barrels previously used to age bourbon.
During maturation, the whisky gains colour and flavor from caramelized sugar found in the wood.

Traditional whisky casks, bring consistent, delicate layers of honey.
Traditional whisky casks have already aged Scotch whisky, been emptied and treated by The Balvenie's onsite team of coopers
before being refilled with new Balvenie spirit.


Its floor maltings have been retained and although this only makes up a small percentage (up to 15%) of the total mash, it is believed that it helps contribute character to the new make – the small amount of peat which is burned might help. Given that Balvenie has only opened to visitors in recent times, it certainly wasn’t kept for cosmetic or touristic reasons.

It’s a large distillery with nine, fat, short-necked stills producing a new make character which is notably sweet and honeyed – completely different to both Glenfiddich and Kininvie. Interestingly, when William Grant built its Ailsa Bay malt distillery in Girvan, the still shape replicated that of Balvenie, but the new make is different again.

This was one of the first distilleries to introduce a ‘finished’ single malt with the launch in 1993 of Double Wood, which was first aged in ex-Bourbon casks before being given a short period of secondary maturation (aka finishing) in ex-Sherry.

This utilisation of different wood types runs through the Balvenie range with a new 17-year-old Double Wood recently joining Caribbean Cask (ex-rum) 14 year old, and the 21-year-old Port Wood as part of the core range. As well as single barrel releases and older age variants up to 50 years in the range, a cult small batch, Tun 1401, has also recently appeared, followed by Tun 1509.

BRANDS PRODUCED HERE
Burnside
Wardhead

Balvenie was built on a 12 acre site adjacent to Glenfiddich in 1892/3. Originally known as Glen Gordon it took the name of the huge (ruined) castle which was located next door. The ‘new’ castle, already derelict in 1893, was turned into maltings.

The distillery provided fillings, primarily for the Grant’s Standfast blend, until 1973 when the first official bottling was made. Its continued requirements as a contributor to blends initially restricted its growth as a stand-alone brand (although increasing its cult status). This was eased slightly with the opening of Kininvie in 1990, but it was only with the building of Ailsa Bay that greater stocks were finally made available. It is now one of the fastest-growing single malt brands in the world.

1892
William Grant builds Balvenie distillery next door to Glenfiddich
1893
Production begins at Balvenie
1957
Capacity at the distillery is doubled with the addition of two new stills
1971
By now the distillery is operating eight stills after a further two were installed in 1965
1990
Kininvie distillery, which comprised of a solitary still house, opened on the estate to ease pressure on Balvenie
1993
Balvenie becomes one of the first distilleries to finish a single malt in a different cask with the launch of Doublewood
2004
The Balvenie Thirty is released to celebrate malt master David Stewart’s 30th anniversary at the distillery
2010
The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 1 is released as a distillery edition
2014
The Balvenie Tun 1509 replaces Tun 1401


CAPACITY (MLPA) i
7
CONDENSER TYPE i
Shell and tube
FERMENTATION TIME i
65hrs
GRIST WEIGHT (T) i
11
HEAT SOURCE i
Steam
MALT SPECIFICATION i
5ppm
MALT SUPPLIER i
Various
MASH TUN TYPE i
Semi lauter
NEW-MAKE STRENGTH i
70.5%
SPIRIT STILL SHAPE i
Boil ball
SPIRIT STILL SIZE (L) i
12,000
STILLS i
11
WAREHOUSING i
Racket, dunnage palletised
WASH STILL SHAPE i
Boil ball
WASH STILL SIZE (L) i
12,000
WASHBACK SIZE (L) i
55,000
WASHBACK TYPE i
Various
WASHBACKS i
12
WATER SOURCE i
Conval Hills spring water
YEAST TYPE i
Liquid
OWNER

William Grant & Sons
1892 - present

DAVID STEWART MBE, BALVENIE
28 September 2017
From his humble beginnings as a whisky stocks clerk at William Grant & Sons to his long tenure as Balvenie malt master, David Stewart can look back on a 55-year career, including his exploration of double cask maturation during the 1980s and 1990s. He talks to Richard Woodard about his life’s work and recalls some of the fine (and not-so-fine) finishes created along the way.

David Stewart MBE, The Balvenie
Malt master: David Stewart’s DoubleWood 12 Year Old ‘put Balvenie on the map’
              
‘Good appearance. Appears to be the solid type. Would do.’

The year is 1962, and a 17-year-old David Charles Stewart is being interviewed for a job as a whisky stocks clerk at William Grant & Sons. And, while the notes made in that interview may not be the most laudatory assessment of a prospective employee, they somehow fit the man himself – steadfastly humble and modest, despite the many highlights of a remarkable 55-year career that culminated in the award of an MBE last year.

‘I think it was the chief accountant who interviewed me first of all,’ Stewart recalls. ‘I didn’t start off thinking I would ever become a blender. I just started off as a clerk in the whisky stocks team.’

After two years counting casks, Stewart began to become acquainted with their contents. ‘I was lucky in that my boss [Hamish Robertson] was the master blender. Within a couple of years of me working, he started to bring me into the sample room.

‘I just started to nose the whiskies that were coming through. There weren’t that many in those days, but Girvan distillery had just opened in 1964. We had Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries; there was [blended Scotch] Grant’s Standfast.

‘Then Glenfiddich started [as a single malt] in 1964. Gradually I was seeing more and learning more and more from [Hamish], and then he left in 1974. I was just left to get on with running the place after 10 years with the whisky.’

Early days: Stewart was present for the ‘dawn’ of single malts during the 1960s

We’ll move onto what was involved in ‘getting on with running the place’ in a moment. But first, consider the timing of Stewart’s entry into Scotch whisky: the birth of Glenfiddich as a single malt and, with it, the creation of a new commercial category at a time when blends were all-powerful. While his initial involvement with it was minimal, the seismic forces which Glenfiddich set in motion were to shape his career.

Stewart acknowledges the significance of this new era of single malt, but plays it down in characteristic fashion. ‘Yes, the [Grant] family took a big risk in bottling Glenfiddich at the start,’ he says. ‘But in the big scheme of things, single malt is still pretty small. I mean, it’s 15% of industry sales – we still rely on blended whiskies like Johnnie Walker, J&B and Grant’s.’

Nonetheless, the journey of single malt – reflecting and punctuating Stewart’s own career – has been long and eventful since that first consignment of Glenfiddich headed south in 1964. It’s a development encapsulated by the evolution of Balvenie, the Speyside single malt for which Stewart remains responsible in his semi-retirement (Brian Kinsman took over his broader company duties in 2009).

‘When Glenfiddich was launched, it was 10 years before Balvenie – Glenfiddich was 1963, 1964, I think,’ recalls Stewart. ‘So not that I was terribly involved at that stage, but I knew about it, I saw samples coming into the sample room.

‘I think it was the family again who, 10 years later, thought: “Well, we’ve got this great whisky at Balvenie.” With Glenfiddich, the single malt market started opening up. Glenfiddich probably had almost 10 years with very little competition.

Revolutionary move: Stewart’s development of double maturation helped shape modern single malts

‘It wasn’t until the 1970s when Macallan came along, The Glenlivet, Glenmorangie and others. At that stage we thought: “Well, let’s bottle Balvenie.” We put it into a triangular bottle because that’s what we were used to very much at Glenfiddich. In 1973, we launched it at eight years old – Glenfiddich was eight as well and generally quite a lot of single malts that were around at that time were eight. It wasn’t a problem.’

How does he remember that whisky? ‘You still see the odd bottle. I tasted it at The Craigellachie Hotel just last week – they’ve got a bottle there. It was very nice, to be fair. It would be from maybe more European oak then than now, because it would be back to the 1960s for the whisky that was in that bottle. So it was quite rich-tasting, was the eight.’

Evolution followed: a move to a long-necked, Cognac-style bottle, a shift to a 10-year-old age statement. Then, in 1993, came a launch that was, in the man’s own assessment, the highlight of Stewart’s career: Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old.

‘That’s the one that I’m probably most proud of, just because that’s what put Balvenie on the map, and that’s really when Balvenie sales started to become what they are today,’ Stewart says.

DoubleWood’s DNA – aged in American oak, then ‘finished’ in Sherry wood – can be traced back a decade to the early 1980s and Stewart’s pioneering work on extra maturation. What is routine and commonplace in whisky today was then revolutionary – but, perhaps even more remarkably, nobody talked about it.

‘No, it wasn’t marketed as a “finish” then, it was just we wanted to create something a bit different [Balvenie Classic] from the Founder’s Reserve,’ admits Stewart. ‘What would happen if we recasked whisky from American oak to European oak? That produced the Classic and the Classic variants.

‘We were delighted because Sherry wood does add richness, spiciness and complexity and colour – and just a bit more flavour to the whisky. We knew that something was going to happen.’

Spirit clash: Experiments with spirit finishes, such as Cognac and Armagnac, did not work

For all DoubleWood’s success – next year marks its 25th anniversary – it’s still sometimes misunderstood, Stewart adds. ‘People think that a lot of the flavour in the DoubleWood is coming from the Sherry, which it’s not really – it’s coming from the wood, because the wood is only two years old.

‘It’s a two-year-old, brand-new, European oak cask that we use every time for DoubleWood. So a lot of that spiciness is wood spiciness and malt spiciness that gets into the whisky, whereas if you look at Madeira and Port [finishes], most of the flavour there is the Madeira, the Port, because the casks are much older.’

DoubleWood, Portwood, Madeira Cask, Caribbean Cask – a pioneering production line of Balvenie ‘finishes’ that was born in that fertile period of experimentation. But if the malt’s history is written by the winners, the losers can be just as educational in their own way.

‘We tried quite a number,’ Stewart recalls. ‘We tried other spirits like brandy, for example, and Cognac and Armagnac, and they didn’t work for us. The two spirits just kind of fought with each other and there was a clash between the two.

‘We tried a number of wines – maybe not always the right wines, and maybe they weren’t always sweet enough. The ones we did try were Californian wines – white and red – because they were easy to get, but they didn’t really work for us. They didn’t really change the whisky all that much.’

Blended away, a cask at a time, into William Grant’s older blends, only the chastening memory of these failed experiments remains.  ‘That’s probably the beauty of our company,’ says Stewart. ‘If it doesn’t work, then we’re not forced to bottle it.’

If there’s a general conclusion to be drawn from this feverish period of innovation, it’s that a relatively rich malt such as Balvenie needs something extra – sweetness, fortification – in a wine cask. ‘That could be,’ Stewart agrees. ‘We’ve got one or two in our warehouse – a Sauternes or Barsac, or a Marsala – to try and see if they might give us something for the future.’

Peat week: Stewart has overseen the release of a new smoky Balvenie bottling

From past and future, back to the present. The reason we’re talking in the first place is the launch of Balvenie Peat Week, the second of two peated variants launched by the distillery this year.

First discussed as long ago as 2001, the whisky is the result of an annual week of peated runs through the distillery, beginning in 2002. ‘We use peat in our bottlings at Balvenie anyway, but it doesn’t show through particularly in any of the expressions,’ says Stewart.

‘At first, we didn’t really know what we were going to do with it, we just thought it was good to have it… We’ve not used it all, we’ve held stock back, so we might decide to do a 17, or a 21. And I know someone was joking about having a 50-year-old…’

But anyone expecting a Speyside take on a super-peated Islay malt will be confounded. ‘It was peated to 30ppm [phenol parts per million], but that’s the barley itself, and when it translates into the bottle, it’s only 5-6ppm,’ points out Stewart.

‘We didn’t want to dominate the Balvenie style. We wanted it still to be very much Balvenie, but to have this little bit of smokiness. And it’s Speyside peat, it’s from Aberdeenshire, so it’s quite different from the Islay peat. That’s more kind of medicinal, but this is a softer kind of smokiness – more in the background.’

Stewart also resists suggestions that Peat Week is some kind of gimmick that risks compromising distillery character. ‘Balvenie has been peated – we used peated malt back in the 1930s and 1940s and I’ve seen some of that whisky in my time with the company,’ he points out. ‘The style would be quite different moving back – it would be quite smoky.’

What’s in the glass reflects Stewart’s carefully chosen words and, in a deeper sense, the character of the man as well. Peat not as a dominant force, but as a seasoning, happy to play an accompanying role and to allow the character of the distillate to shine through.

Substance over style, continuity of character above short-term show. Every master blender has his or her own unique way of doing things but, in the end, it’s the whisky they produce that creates their legacy, and that speaks most loudly to the world.

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM CHAPTER 3 UNVEILED
23 October 2017
Balvenie has unveiled the third part of the DCS Compendium collection of single malts – five whiskies priced at £57,000 and including the Speyside distillery’s oldest release to date.

Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 3
Three of five: The 25 whiskies celebrate the long career of David Stewart MBE
Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 3 is the latest release in a five-part, five-year series celebrating the career of Balvenie malt master David Stewart MBE.

This year’s quintet of single cask single malts includes the distillery’s oldest release to date: a 55-year-old whisky distilled in 1961 and priced at £35,000 a bottle.

The theme of ‘Secrets of the Stock Model’ – which follows ‘Distillery Style’ in Chapter 1 and ‘The Influence of Oak’ in Chapter 2 – aims to celebrate Stewart’s knowledge, experience and skill in assessing the many factors that impact maturing whisky stocks.

‘In my role as malt master, one of the most challenging and ultimately rewarding aspects is the management of our large and precious whisky stocks,’ said Stewart.

‘This chapter is a tribute to the strategic decisions we’ve made over the years, as we look to control stock management variables such as industry demand, new innovations and, of course, the angels’ share.’

The five whiskies include a 1973 European oak oloroso Sherry butt to recall the 1970s whisky boom, and a 1981 refill American oak hogshead to mark the first vintage used to produce Balvenie DoubleWood in 1993.

A 23-year-old whisky from 1993 commemorates that launch and the switch to the current Balvenie bottle, while 2004 was Stewart’s 30th year as malt master, as well as the year that Balvenie Thirty was released.

When complete, the Balvenie DCS Compendium will comprise 25 whiskies, with a combined value of about £125,000. Chapters 4 and 5 will focus on ‘Expecting the Unexpected’ and ‘Malt Master’s Indulgence’ respectively.

Fifty sets of Chapter 3 are available globally, priced at £57,000 each, with each whisky also available for individual purchase.

Full details of Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 3:

1961: 55 years old, Cask 4193, European oak oloroso Sherry hogshead, filled 14 June 1961, 41.7% abv, £35,000
1973: 43 years old, Cask 8556, European oak oloroso Sherry butt, filled 7 June 1973, 46.6% abv, £15,000
1981: 35 years old, Cask 7824, refill American oak hogshead, filled 29 October 1981, 43.8% abv, £3,500
1993: 23 years old, Cask 11621, refill American oak hogshead, filled 6 December 1993, 51.9% abv, £900
2004: 13 years old, Cask 741, European oak oloroso Sherry butt, filled 19 January 2004, 58.2% abv, £600

DAVID STEWART MBE, BALVENIE

From his humble beginnings as a whisky stocks clerk at William Grant & Sons to his long tenure as Balvenie malt master, David Stewart can look back on a 55-year career, including his exploration of double cask maturation during the 1980s and 1990s. He talks  about his life’s work and recalls some of the fine (and not-so-fine) finishes created along the way.

David Stewart MBE, The Balvenie
Malt master: David Stewart’s DoubleWood 12 Year Old ‘put Balvenie on the map’
               ‘Good appearance. Appears to be the solid type. Would do.’

The year is 1962, and a 17-year-old David Charles Stewart is being interviewed for a job as a whisky stocks clerk at William Grant & Sons. And, while the notes made in that interview may not be the most laudatory assessment of a prospective employee, they somehow fit the man himself – steadfastly humble and modest, despite the many highlights of a remarkable 55-year career that culminated in the award of an MBE last year.

‘I think it was the chief accountant who interviewed me first of all,’ Stewart recalls. ‘I didn’t start off thinking I would ever become a blender. I just started off as a clerk in the whisky stocks team.’

After two years counting casks, Stewart began to become acquainted with their contents. ‘I was lucky in that my boss [Hamish Robertson] was the master blender. Within a couple of years of me working, he started to bring me into the sample room.

‘I just started to nose the whiskies that were coming through. There weren’t that many in those days, but Girvan distillery had just opened in 1964. We had Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries; there was [blended Scotch] Grant’s Standfast.

‘Then Glenfiddich started [as a single malt] in 1964. Gradually I was seeing more and learning more and more from [Hamish], and then he left in 1974. I was just left to get on with running the place after 10 years with the whisky.’



Early days: Stewart was present for the ‘dawn’ of single malts during the 1960s

We’ll move onto what was involved in ‘getting on with running the place’ in a moment. But first, consider the timing of Stewart’s entry into Scotch whisky: the birth of Glenfiddich as a single malt and, with it, the creation of a new commercial category at a time when blends were all-powerful. While his initial involvement with it was minimal, the seismic forces which Glenfiddich set in motion were to shape his career.

Stewart acknowledges the significance of this new era of single malt, but plays it down in characteristic fashion. ‘Yes, the [Grant] family took a big risk in bottling Glenfiddich at the start,’ he says. ‘But in the big scheme of things, single malt is still pretty small. I mean, it’s 15% of industry sales – we still rely on blended whiskies like Johnnie Walker, J&B and Grant’s.’

Nonetheless, the journey of single malt – reflecting and punctuating Stewart’s own career – has been long and eventful since that first consignment of Glenfiddich headed south in 1964. It’s a development encapsulated by the evolution of Balvenie, the Speyside single malt for which Stewart remains responsible in his semi-retirement (Brian Kinsman took over his broader company duties in 2009).

‘When Glenfiddich was launched, it was 10 years before Balvenie – Glenfiddich was 1963, 1964, I think,’ recalls Stewart. ‘So not that I was terribly involved at that stage, but I knew about it, I saw samples coming into the sample room.

‘I think it was the family again who, 10 years later, thought: “Well, we’ve got this great whisky at Balvenie.” With Glenfiddich, the single malt market started opening up. Glenfiddich probably had almost 10 years with very little competition.



Revolutionary move: Stewart’s development of double maturation helped shape modern single malts

‘It wasn’t until the 1970s when Macallan came along, The Glenlivet, Glenmorangie and others. At that stage we thought: “Well, let’s bottle Balvenie.” We put it into a triangular bottle because that’s what we were used to very much at Glenfiddich. In 1973, we launched it at eight years old – Glenfiddich was eight as well and generally quite a lot of single malts that were around at that time were eight. It wasn’t a problem.’

How does he remember that whisky? ‘You still see the odd bottle. I tasted it at The Craigellachie Hotel just last week – they’ve got a bottle there. It was very nice, to be fair. It would be from maybe more European oak then than now, because it would be back to the 1960s for the whisky that was in that bottle. So it was quite rich-tasting, was the eight.’

Evolution followed: a move to a long-necked, Cognac-style bottle, a shift to a 10-year-old age statement. Then, in 1993, came a launch that was, in the man’s own assessment, the highlight of Stewart’s career: Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Years Old.

‘That’s the one that I’m probably most proud of, just because that’s what put Balvenie on the map, and that’s really when Balvenie sales started to become what they are today,’ Stewart says.

DoubleWood’s DNA – aged in American oak, then ‘finished’ in Sherry wood – can be traced back a decade to the early 1980s and Stewart’s pioneering work on extra maturation. What is routine and commonplace in whisky today was then revolutionary – but, perhaps even more remarkably, nobody talked about it.

‘No, it wasn’t marketed as a “finish” then, it was just we wanted to create something a bit different [Balvenie Classic] from the Founder’s Reserve,’ admits Stewart. ‘What would happen if we recasked whisky from American oak to European oak? That produced the Classic and the Classic variants.

‘We were delighted because Sherry wood does add richness, spiciness and complexity and colour – and just a bit more flavour to the whisky. We knew that something was going to happen.’



Spirit clash: Experiments with spirit finishes, such as Cognac and Armagnac, did not work

For all DoubleWood’s success – next year marks its 25th anniversary – it’s still sometimes misunderstood, Stewart adds. ‘People think that a lot of the flavour in the DoubleWood is coming from the Sherry, which it’s not really – it’s coming from the wood, because the wood is only two years old.

‘It’s a two-year-old, brand-new, European oak cask that we use every time for DoubleWood. So a lot of that spiciness is wood spiciness and malt spiciness that gets into the whisky, whereas if you look at Madeira and Port [finishes], most of the flavour there is the Madeira, the Port, because the casks are much older.’

DoubleWood, Portwood, Madeira Cask, Caribbean Cask – a pioneering production line of Balvenie ‘finishes’ that was born in that fertile period of experimentation. But if the malt’s history is written by the winners, the losers can be just as educational in their own way.

‘We tried quite a number,’ Stewart recalls. ‘We tried other spirits like brandy, for example, and Cognac and Armagnac, and they didn’t work for us. The two spirits just kind of fought with each other and there was a clash between the two.

‘We tried a number of wines – maybe not always the right wines, and maybe they weren’t always sweet enough. The ones we did try were Californian wines – white and red – because they were easy to get, but they didn’t really work for us. They didn’t really change the whisky all that much.’

Blended away, a cask at a time, into William Grant’s older blends, only the chastening memory of these failed experiments remains.  ‘That’s probably the beauty of our company,’ says Stewart. ‘If it doesn’t work, then we’re not forced to bottle it.’

If there’s a general conclusion to be drawn from this feverish period of innovation, it’s that a relatively rich malt such as Balvenie needs something extra – sweetness, fortification – in a wine cask. ‘That could be,’ Stewart agrees. ‘We’ve got one or two in our warehouse – a Sauternes or Barsac, or a Marsala – to try and see if they might give us something for the future.’



Peat week: Stewart has overseen the release of a new smoky Balvenie bottling

From past and future, back to the present. The reason we’re talking in the first place is the launch of Balvenie Peat Week, the second of two peated variants launched by the distillery this year.

First discussed as long ago as 2001, the whisky is the result of an annual week of peated runs through the distillery, beginning in 2002. ‘We use peat in our bottlings at Balvenie anyway, but it doesn’t show through particularly in any of the expressions,’ says Stewart.

‘At first, we didn’t really know what we were going to do with it, we just thought it was good to have it… We’ve not used it all, we’ve held stock back, so we might decide to do a 17, or a 21. And I know someone was joking about having a 50-year-old…’

But anyone expecting a Speyside take on a super-peated Islay malt will be confounded. ‘It was peated to 30ppm [phenol parts per million], but that’s the barley itself, and when it translates into the bottle, it’s only 5-6ppm,’ points out Stewart.

‘We didn’t want to dominate the Balvenie style. We wanted it still to be very much Balvenie, but to have this little bit of smokiness. And it’s Speyside peat, it’s from Aberdeenshire, so it’s quite different from the Islay peat. That’s more kind of medicinal, but this is a softer kind of smokiness – more in the background.’

Stewart also resists suggestions that Peat Week is some kind of gimmick that risks compromising distillery character. ‘Balvenie has been peated – we used peated malt back in the 1930s and 1940s and I’ve seen some of that whisky in my time with the company,’ he points out. ‘The style would be quite different moving back – it would be quite smoky.’

What’s in the glass reflects Stewart’s carefully chosen words and, in a deeper sense, the character of the man as well. Peat not as a dominant force, but as a seasoning, happy to play an accompanying role and to allow the character of the distillate to shine through.

Substance over style, continuity of character above short-term show. Every master blender has his or her own unique way of doing things but, in the end, it’s the whisky they produce that creates their legacy, and that speaks most loudly to the world.
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