The Balvenie has always been the oak master of Spey. Located in Dufftown owned by the William Grant and Sons. This whisky is all about the oak. The Balvenie cooperage has around 40,000 barrels, and you can smell whisky everywhere.
Some of these barrels are well traveled, and twice toasted. The barrels used for this expression start out in Kentucky at the Kelvin Cooperage. A cooperage btw started in 1993 by a Scotsman in search of bourbon barrels for import. The Kelvin makes barrels in Kentucky for all types of spirits including wine.
About Scottish Whisky Barrels
Most ex bourbon barrels are shipped to Scottish distillers, pieced out, boxes of slates and ends, then rebuilt on sight at a cooperage, completely redone by highly skilled craftsmen and women.
In the heart of Speyside Malt Whisky Trail lies the Speyside Cooperage, the only working cooperage in the UK where you can experience the ancient art of coopering.
Since 1947, Speyside Cooperage has produced the finest casks from the best American
Today the cooperage continues to work and produce the age-old product, still using traditional methods and tools. Each year, it produces and repairs nearly 150,000 oak casks used by the surrounding Speyside Whisky distilleries, as well as distilleries throughout Scotland and the rest of the world.
The Balvenie is located a short distance from the Speyside cooperage, and they do their own coopering, which makes them one of the few distilleries in Scotland to actually make their own barrels. I believe this brings so much to The Balvenie in terms flavor and is unique amongst Scottish whisky distilleries, not many distilleries do their own coopering. To top it off they do floor maltings, on location too.
The Balvenie is considered a “complete distillery,” which means every aspect of the distilling process takes place on their grounds. This includes growing their own barley on the lands near the distillery buildings. They are also one of the few distilleries to have an active malting floor, and as mentioned, they make casks in their own cooperage.
The Balvenie imports whole new once toasted American oak barrels to the distillery from Kentucky, the kelvin cooperage, all as one piece units, not disassembled, then toasts them again for reuse with this expression.
Started in 1886 by William Grant, a man who also started the Glenfiddich. There is so much to say about the greatness of The Balvenie, so a visit is well worth it.
People who explore Scottish whiskies will say it’s the water, its the malt, it’s the land, or it’s the barrel. The Balvenie relies on its own handling of american oak, and this expression, is proof of it being their obsession.
All of the expressions distilled by The Balvenie are aged with oak or finish in rum or wine casks, or even triple woods.
While visiting the distillery and having a tasting I was blown away by how wonderfully approachable this whisky is.
The entire line up of The Balvenie offerings are like a person with that certain something, a cool suave host, or a guest that steals the room. Never overbearing, always subtle. It’s as if James Bond and Deepak Chopra said lets make a whisky.
Color: It takes on a dark gold, almost amber color
Nose: A real blend of honey heather, oak and floral notes
Palate: A sherry flavor develops, fantastic spiciness
Finish: Very Long, with hints of citrus orange, very pleasant, no smoke
w/ Water: This is where the oak noses through. The sherry disappears and gives way to a smoother mellow palate, there is more spice in the finish but is better without water.