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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

40 %
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       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 Maltmaster


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.

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
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
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.’s

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.

In 2017 the owners of The Balvenie took yet another step in their search for new flavour profiles when they for the first time launched two whiskies that were made from 100 %  peated The Balvenie malt

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM CHAPTER 3
November 2017

Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 3 review
Distillers are all too aware of the importance of managing their whisky stocks. Understanding the age, maturity and flavour profile of thousands of individual casks and deciding which bottling each is best suited for, all while carefully considering stock levels for future releases, is a balancing act.

It’s an issue David Stewart, malt master at Balvenie, has become familiar with over his 50-plus years at the Speyside distillery. No wonder, then, that the third chapter in the DCS Compendium, created to celebrate his achievements, has been entitled ‘Secrets of the Stock Model’.

Five single cask vintages were chosen for the chapter, each for their relevance to the evolution of Balvenie, and a demonstration of Stewart’s knowledge of maturation and forecasting.

Scotchwhisky.com editor Becky Paskin takes a journey through them, from 2004 back to 1961 and the oldest vintage released from Balvenie to date.

SCORING EXPLAINED
OVERVIEW
> Balvenie DCS Compendium 2004, 13 Years Old, Cask 741
> Balvenie DCS Compendium 1993, 23 Years Old, 11621
> Balvenie DCS Compendium 1981, 35 Years Old, Cask 7824
> Balvenie DCS Compendium 1973, 43 Years Old, Cask 8556
> Balvenie DCS Compendium 1961, 55 Years Old, Cask 4193

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM 2004, 13 YEARS OLD, CASK 74
ABV
58.2%
PRODUCTION TYPE
Single malt whisky
REGION
Speyside
FLAVOUR CAMP
Fruity & Spicy

NOSE
A confectioner’s greeting – a cloud of icing sugar dust and sticky lemon sherbets give way to the unmistakable spice of an active Sherry cask at play – sweet sultanas, treacle, rich fruit cake. A grassy, floral note peeks out behind the (not overtly) Sherried front, playfully throwing handfuls of green barley.

PALATE
Thick and unctuous from the start, its sweet and Sherried bravado becomes bitter, nutty and tannic in the middle – walnut skins and nutmeg – which slightly dries the sides of the mouth as a rich fruit cake intensity jostles for control. Pleasantly, it’s not overbearingly sweet as some first-fill Sherried malts can be. Baking spices pepper the tongue, as does the high alcohol content (calmed with water). Top notes of that green, citrussy, estery character persist in the background. That’s the thing with Balvenie – the cask is never allowed to dominate.

FINISH
Burnt crackly glaze atop a malt loaf.

CONCLUSION
A rather lovely Sherried Balvenie that shows a skilful balance between distillery and cask but, at six times the cost of a 15-year-old single barrel, the price tag isn’t justified.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Skilfully throwing barley grains into cook’s glass of Sherry from several feet away.

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM 1993, 23 YEARS OLD, 11621
ABV
51.9%
PRODUCTION TYPE
Single malt whisky
REGION
Speyside
FLAVOUR CAMP
Fruity & Spicy

NOSE
Woody and damp at first – a dunnage warehouse floor, sandalwood and pencil shavings – but in time Balvenie’s fruity notes of green apple skin, lemon drops and green fruit pastilles step out of the shadows, one by one. Water releases bigger fruit aromas of pineapple and melon. A faint note of light chocolate mousse permeates the fruitiness, which in any other situation wouldn’t be complementary, but here, somehow, the synergy works. Tarte tatin made with buttery, flaky pastry nips at the heels.

PALATE
Surprisingly soft, given the strength. Soft oat biscuits and a dry oakiness wave hello before more biscuitiness – Rich Tea this time, a melting square of Galaxy milk chocolate and a touch of lemon zest. Now that puff pastry comes into its own, pulling along caramelised apples and a dollop of crème anglaise for the ride. The fruit – melons, crisp green apples, pineapple chunks – grow more prominent with a drop of water.

FINISH
Dry and oaky.

CONCLUSION
A well-matured benchmark Balvenie, chosen to mark the launch of the classic distillery bottling, Balvenie DoubleWood.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Tools down in the cooperage for fruit juice and biscuits.

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM 1981, 35 YEARS OLD, CASK 7824
ABV
43.8%
PRODUCTION TYPE
Single malt whisky
REGION
Speyside
FLAVOUR CAMP
Fruity & Spicy

NOSE
Surprisingly vibrant for its age, with freshly-cut hay and green apples at the fore, but there’s an omnipresent element of wood rot lingering as damp newspaper, the print rubbing off on your hands. Dust settles on an old oak cask. Beneath it all the ripe fruit gathers: pineapple, watermelon, candied lemon. The juxtaposition of distillery character and age, the two jostling for attention, is mesmerising.

PALATE
Soft, oaky vanilla and wood spice, with a surprisingly grippy texture. Again the fresh green fruit battles against richer, sweeter notes (Bramley apples and damsons vs sultanas and morello cherries) before a leathery, bitter quality moves in, casting all asunder, leaving dusty bookshelves and espresso in its wake.

FINISH
Soft, gentle and smooth; the faint memory of an old pair of beloved leather boots.

CONCLUSION
David Stewart chose a 1981 vintage to blend into the Balvenie DoubleWood in 1993. Thankfully he spotted something remarkable about this particular cask and held back.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Sifting through old newspapers at the library, a coffee and Danish in hand.

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM 1973, 43 YEARS OLD, CASK 8556
ABV
46.6%
PRODUCTION TYPE
Single malt whisky
REGION
Speyside
FLAVOUR CAMP
Fruity & Spicy

NOSE
The most heavily Sherried of the chapter, with denser, richer fruits than the 13-year-old, which was also matured in an oloroso Sherry butt. Gutsy and thick, there’s serious depth here. Marzipan, dried sweet cherries and cinnamon-spiked molasses. Hazelnuts, honeyed figs and dark, indulgent sticky toffee pudding. Its age shows in notes of leather, polished wood and earthen floor. If I were only ever allowed to nose this dram I’d be more than happy.

PALATE
A thick, Sherried sweetness swimming in prunes, figs, molasses and cloves, though it’s never prickly. There’s the old leather again, this time joined by meatier – yet still sweet – notes of maple-cured bacon and smoked meats. A touch of smokiness (a dying brick fireplace) lingers next to a hint of sulphur in the back. Spices dance across the tongue.

FINISH
Gradual and long.

CONCLUSION
An absolute delight. If you happen to have a spare £15k kicking about, you may want to consider purchasing.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Santa’s cigarillo lay discarded in the cold hearth, his Sherry and fig rolls left untouched.

BALVENIE DCS COMPENDIUM 1961, 55 YEARS OLD, CASK 4193
ABV
41.7%
PRODUCTION TYPE
Single malt whisky
REGION
Speyside
FLAVOUR CAMP
Fruity & Spicy

NOSE
When the malt dust clears there’s clear, sweet oloroso character, but this hogshead has not only been kind to the spirit over the years, it’s heightened qualities I’ve never known in Balvenie before. Jasmine and orange blossom, mango and fuzzy peach: an orchard on a spring day. The floral elements combine with toasted oak and hard caramel, vanilla cream and juicy sultanas. This is not just a £35,000 whisky; it’s a snapshot of Balvenie in the 1960s. A moment in time.

PALATE
The fruit has been caramelised and encased in golden pastry: peach strudel with butterscotch sauce. A vase of freshly-picked roses stand on a table nearby. Damp wood spice – anise, nutmeg, vanilla – gives a hint of age and adds grip to the otherwise soft palate, which is watering under the influence of Juicy Fruit chewing gum (can you still buy that?).

FINISH
Baking spice, soft brown sugar. Dry. The rose petals and jasmine whip back around for a parting shot.

CONCLUSION
This is the reason why the craft of making whisky really lies in the blender’s skill – identifying a cask this exemplary – the oldest release from Balvenie – is what makes David Stewart a master of his craft.


NEW BALVENIE 50 RELEASED FOR £27,500
July 2018
Balvenie is releasing its sixth 50-year-old single malt this summer, with a limited number of bottles priced at £27,500.

The Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962
Matrimonial malt: The Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962 is a lesson in how to blend old whiskies
A vatting of four American oak casks aged 50 years or over, The Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962 celebrates the skill required to blend together old whiskies.

Produced by Balvenie malt master David Stewart, Marriage 0962 – a number that corresponds to the month and year Stewart first started working with Balvenie owner William Grant & Sons – was created from some of the Speyside distillery’s oldest stocks.

‘Marrying aged whisky stocks is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, yet enjoyable facets of my role as the Balvenie malt master,’ said Stewart.

‘This was a chance to explore the furthest reaches of our precious aged stocks and see how their extremes could be controlled and combined.

‘Despite enjoying more than 55 years in the business, I’m still discovering and learning new things about the science and art of whisky making.

‘The creation of Marriage 0962 took months of patience to complete, as we’re dealing with liquids with extremes in abv, taste and age.’

Marriage 0962, which is bottled at 42.8% abv, is said to be ‘deep and mature’ with notes of oak, maple syrup and citrus with ‘delicate spice’.

The expression is presented in a wooden tube comprised of 50 layers – 48 of walnut and two of brass – and accompanied by an etched brass certificate and bottle stopper inscribed with the tasting notes of each constituent cask.

The release is the sixth edition of The Balvenie Fifty. The first was a vatting of 1937 vintage whiskies released in 1987; the second a bottling of Cask 191 released in 2002; the third a single cask bottling from a European oak Sherry hogshead launched in 2012; and most recently, two bottlings from identical casks with very different flavour profiles were released in 2014.

Alwynne Gwilt, UK brand ambassador for Balvenie, said: ‘We are lucky to have an incredible array of old whisky stocks, deriving from the fact we have had consistency through both family ownership and David’s long term commitment to the company.’

Just 110 bottles of the Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962 will be available to buy at specialist retailers globally from August 2018.

BALVENIE NAMES STEWART’S POTENTIAL SUCCESSOR
August 2018
Speyside single malt Balvenie has named 25-year-old Kelsey McKechnie as apprentice malt master and potential successor to Scotch whisky legend David Stewart MBE.

Kelsey McKechnie and David Stewart MBE Balvenie
‘Precocious talent’: Kelsey McKechnie will be mentored by veteran malt master David Stewart MBE
Glasgow-born McKechnie will be mentored by Stewart, the longest-serving malt master in Scotch whisky with a total of 56 years’ experience in the industry.

She will also be tasked with maintaining ‘excellence and consistency’ in Balvenie’s whisky, ensuring that its spirit is ‘maturing in the desired direction’, and assisting Stewart in launching future expressions of Balvenie.

McKechnie, who has a degree in Biology and Biological Sciences from the University of the West of Scotland, has been studying for an MSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, from which she graduates this year.

She has also been working with Balvenie owner William Grant & Sons as a technical graduate and whisky technologist, shadowing Stewart in the creation of recent Balvenie launches, including Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Years, Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 25 Years and Balvenie Fifty: Marriage 0962.

McKechnie has also worked with William Grant master blender and Glenfiddich malt master Brian Kinsman – who was himself mentored by Stewart for eight years – on spirit development for the company’s roster of brands.

‘It’s hard to underplay the significance of this announcement – the appointment to apprentice malt master represents a once-in a lifetime opportunity for anyone working in the whisky industry,’ said Stewart.

‘To achieve this at just 25 years old is testament to Kelsey’s abilities. She is a precocious talent; with a real flair for distillation, a dedication to her craft and a self-assurance and poise that completely belies her young age.’

Describing her appointment as ‘an incredible honour and a privilege’, McKechnie said: ‘Over the past four years, the team at William Grant & Sons have provided me with a wealth of support, guidance and knowledge on all things spirits, and I look forward to continuing my journey and development under David’s tutelage.’

There is as yet no confirmed timetable for when McKechnie will take over from Stewart as Balvenie’s malt master.

Stewart began his career with William Grant at the age of 17 as a whisky stocks clerk in 1962, and is perhaps best-known for his pioneering work in the area of ‘finishing’, or double cask maturation, in the 1980s.

He remains malt master at Balvenie, but handed over his broader responsibilities for Glenfiddich and Grant’s to Kinsman in 2009, and was awarded an MBE for services to the Scotch whisky industry in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List

KELSEY MCKECHNIE, BALVENIE
September 2018
Kelsey McKechnie, announced last week as apprentice malt master to David Stewart MBE at Balvenie, talks about her scientific background, inspirational mentor and envious friends.

Kelsey McKechnie, Balvenie
Heir apparent: Apprentice malt master Kelsey McKechnie says every day’s a school day
‘David [Stewart]’s so easy-going, he’s so modest about everything he’s done in the industry, it’s easy to forget – I mean, 56 years, when you think of everything he's achieved and the dent that he's left in Scotch whisky and continues to leave – because he’s so down-to-earth, he definitely gives you the impression that no question’s a stupid one. So I can ask whatever I want.

‘Where my mum and dad still live, where I grew up, it’s a tiny little village in south Ayrshire, just surrounded by hills. We still don’t have a phone signal there, so everyone’s out on their bikes, building dens.

‘I’ve been in the blending team at William Grant & Sons a few years and it feels like a month has gone by, because you’re working on so many different things, and every day’s a school day.

‘I love being being able to know how we carry out the analysis on our fermentations and on the distillation profiles, and being able to have that insight is something that I enjoy; but when it comes to nosing and tasting, setting up the blends, it's like the first day at the big school.

‘Sitting down with David and learning what flavours it is that you pick up and how do you balance out these characters, how do you intensify that Sherry note and the sherbet tingle that you get on your nose – you can’t pick that up from a book at all.

Training day: McKechnie says Stewart’s experience can’t be learned from a book

‘David releases all these little nuggets of information, I think, when he doesn’t realise it. His openness always strikes me. So, when you move into this team, he’s just so down-to-earth you can talk about anything.

‘So, for us, talking about the fails in some ways is just as important, because it’s learning, so we can see why it doesn’t work and why we don’t want to take that forward with Balvenie.

‘I like a bit of watersports, and a lot of people don’t think that in Scotland you can do watersports. You just need your five-mill-thick wetsuit... but I like doing a bit of stand-up paddleboarding, wakeboarding.

‘This idea [of becoming apprentice malt master] really came around quite a few months ago, and I’ve been very fortunate. Like I said, I’ve been in the right place at the right time in many ways.

‘People cannot believe that this is a job. My friends that work in offices or in any other industry, when we talk about a hard day, I don't have the same effect. They say: “Excuse me! That is not a hard day!” So I think we’ve obviously all got our own little challenges, but everyone’s fascinated.

‘If we’re out having dinner or drinks and they see something on the menu, they love saying: “What’s good about this one? How do you make this one?” Because anyone wants to know what happens behind the curtain, don’t they?

Learning process: Talking about failures is also important, says McKechnie

‘Balvenie is rich, toffee, butterscotch, it’s that mouth-coating effect, so it leaves your mouth watering. It’s got a little bit of light spice, and toffee notes, the nutmeg coming through.

‘David’s mentioned that he was an apprentice for 12 years, Brian [Kinsman] was an apprentice for eight, so I’m definitely hoping to trump them both and shave that apprentice period down, but we’ll just wait and see.

‘Peat Week was really because we wanted to show Balvenie in a different light and, if you like, flex our muscles. We’ve got our own home maltings, so we wanted to able to really show what we can do. So for us it was a big, puffed-out-chest moment. Look what we can do!

‘When I was growing up, my grandad loved a dram or two, and so when we were younger, it would be an occasion or a Tuesday night, or just the weekend and he would be having a dram.

‘So you would be accustomed to the smell. When you open a bottle of sun cream, the first thing you think is I really want to go on holiday, or how good was that last holiday? So for me, that’s exactly it with whisky.

‘When I started in the lab, straightaway I would think: “I love that smell,” and just for me it reminds me of being at home and all these great family times. My family aren’t actually involved in the whisky industry, but they’re just big fans

BALVENIE AUCTIONS WHISKY AND CAR FOR $150K
September 2018
Whisky enthusiasts are being invited to bid over US$150,000 at auction for a one-off lot including the latest Balvenie DCS Compendium, a Balvenie Morgan Roadster and trip to the Speyside distillery.

Balvenie Morgan Roadster
Dream drive: Only a handful of Balvenie Morgan Roadsters were produced by the brand
Balvenie is putting the unique lot forward for an online auction with Christie’s, which will run from 3pm (GMT) on 25 September until 3pm (GMT) 9 October 2018.

Included in the lot is the soon-to-be-released Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 4, a set of five rare whiskies valued at US$40,000.

Themed around the notion of ‘Expecting the Unexpected’, the set, created by Balvenie malt master David C. Stewart, contains five malts with vintages from 1971 through to 2009, which ‘bring to life the mystery and magic inherent in whisky maturation’.

Meanwhile the Balvenie Morgan Roadster, of which only a handful were produced by the Malvern-based car manufacturer for exclusive use by the brand, is also included in the lot.

Valued at US$80,000, the two-seater features a Tudor body with V8 engine, and is described as the ‘perfect addition to any whisky-lover’s collection’.

Expect the Unexpected: The fourth chapter of the DCS Compendium explores the ‘magic’ of maturation

To top the lot off, the successful bidder will also be invited on a behind-the-scenes trip to the Balvenie distillery in Dufftown.

‘This is the first time Balvenie has participated in an auction of this nature,’ said Balvenie brand director Greg Levine.

‘Combining the rare, collectable whiskies of The Balvenie DCS Compendium and a limited-edition, custom roadster with a personalised tour of the distillery makes this a one-of-a-kind lot, and truly celebrates the spirit of Balvenie.’

Chris Munro, head of wine department for Christie’s Americas, said the lot has the highest ever value for any individual lot in its category.

‘It’s… an interesting lot for us, as it combines luxury handcrafted goods with a one-of-a-kind experience, making a lot that is already extremely exclusive even more enticing,’ he said.

Interested bidders may view the DCS Compendium and car by appointment with Christie’s, with bids accepted in person at any Christie’s auction house worldwide, as well as online at christies.com/wineonline.

The first chapter in the Balvenie DCS Compendium was launched in 2015, with five whiskies themed around the idea of ‘Distillery Style’. With a price tag of £27,000, it was billed as the distillery’s ‘biggest launch to-date’.

It was followed by Chapter 2: The Influence of Oak, and Chapter 3: Secrets of the Stock Model in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

The final chapter, Malt Master’s Indulgence, is expected to be released in 2019.

BALVENIE DOUBLEWOOD 25 MARKS MILESTONE
September 2018
Speyside distillery Balvenie has released a limited edition 25-year-old DoubleWood expression to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first release of its flagship DoubleWood 12-year-old.

Balvenie DoubleWood 25-year-old with packaging on table
Quarter century: The 25-year-old celebrates Balvenie DoubleWood’s cask-finished approach
The single malt has been fully matured for 25 years in American oak casks and finished for three months in Spanish oak ex-oloroso Sherry casks.

David Stewart MBE, malt master at Balvenie, said: ‘The final liquid has a lovely combination of sweetness and spice, with candied orange, layers of brown sugar and sweet dried fruits.’

Bottled at 43% abv, the whisky was laid down in 1993, the year Balvenie’s DoubleWood 12-year-old expression was first released.

The DoubleWood 12-year-old is a rebranded version of the Balvenie Classic, an expression released in 1983 which was one of the first whiskies to have undergone secondary maturation.

Stewart said: ‘When we launched the first DoubleWood in 1993, I would have never thought we would eventually be bottling a 25-year-old variant as we are today.

‘It’s a testament to the success of DoubleWood that we are releasing this more mature expression.’

Anniversary year: A limited edition label has been released for Balvenie DoubleWood 12-year-old to mark the occasion

The 25-year-old has been given a shorter secondary maturation than the 12-year-old expression, which is finished for nine months in ex-Sherry casks, as Stewart decided the more mature whisky ‘had already taken on a greater level of spice and complexity’ than its younger counterpart.

The commemorative bottling is available globally and is priced at £400/US$599.

The whisky is packaged in an opaque maroon box adorned with an infinity symbol, designed to represent the marriage of Spanish ex-Sherry and American oak casks.

The release is part of a ‘year of celebrations’ as Balvenie pays tribute to Stewart’s pioneering work and the distillery staff who help create the DoubleWood expressions.

As part of the celebrations, Balvenie has also released an anniversary edition of DoubleWood 12-year-old which features a commemorative label

‘UNUSUAL’ BALVENIE DCS CHAPTER FOUR REVEALED
October 2018
Balvenie has announced the fourth and penultimate chapter in its DCS Compendium, a collection of five ‘unusual’ whiskies that would ‘otherwise never have seen the light of day’.
Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter 4
Unexpected delights: Malt master David Stewart selected five casks with ‘unusual’ qualities
Titled Expecting the Unexpected, the five whiskies have been selected by Balvenie malt master David C. Stewart for exhibiting ‘unexpected’ qualities.
Ranging in age from nine to 47 years old, the five single cask whiskies are available to buy individually or as part of a collection for £29,000.
‘Each of the five liquids in Chapter Four present highly unusual and unexpected characteristics that we wouldn’t have thought possible from the type of oak they matured in and the maturation time they’ve been given,’ said Stewart.
‘Chapter Four gives us the opportunity to celebrate these twists and turns and allows us to release an extraordinary series of vintages, strides apart from our usual styles.’
The oldest expression in the chapter – a 1971 vintage matured in a refill European oak oloroso Sherry butt, is described as having a ‘high level of richness and spice’ that led Stewart to believe it had been matured in first-fill casks.
Bottled at 49.9% abv, the expression is priced at £21,000 each.
Stewart also selected a 1982 European oak oloroso Sherry hogshead, which took on ‘completely unexpected’ notes of dark chocolate, and has been bottled at 51.1% abv for £4,000.
A 1992 European oak oloroso Sherry puncheon was chosen for the chapter for its unusual notes of toasted almonds. Bottled at 49.8% abv, it is available for £1,200.
The penultimate whisky selected is an 18-year-old malt from a refill American oak hogshead, filled in 1999 and available for £800.
The 46.8% abv whisky was chosen by Stewart for its ‘vibrant coconut notes’ which come as a result of toasting the ends of the cask.
Lastly, a nine-year-old malt from a first-fill American oak barrel is described as being one of Stewart’s ‘biggest surprises’.
Filled in 2009 outside of Balvenie’s annual peat week – the short period it runs peated distillations – the 61.1% abv expression contains notes of ‘distant smoke’ which Stewart believes has been picked up from the walls of the washbacks and pipework from earlier peated spirit runs.
The 2009 expression will be available for £500 a bottle.
Stewart added: ‘Despite spending many years studying the science and art of whisky maturation, there are still occasions when I find myself pleasantly surprised with the unexpected direction a liquid has taken.
‘The nature of whisky making is unpredictable and in the case of The Balvenie DCS Chapter Four, means a selection of remarkable and distinctly different liquids have been released that would otherwise never have seen the light of day.’
As with the previous chapters in the Balvenie DCS Compendium, Chapter Four will be accompanied by a book written by former Balvenie global ambassador Sam Simmons, and personally signed by Stewart.
The Chapter will be available from specialist retailers globally from November.
One set was up for auction via Christie’s earlier this month alongside a bespoke Balvenie Morgan Roadster, although the lot failed to find a buyer.
The first chapter was launched in 2015, while the fifth and final chapter will be titled Malt Masters Indulgence, and will be released in 2019.
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