A trio of new releases from The Balvenie Distillery will bring the incredible folklore behind the whisky to life. The Balvenie Stories is a range of exclusively crafted single malt whiskies, evoking historical tales of character, endeavour and the craft created at the distillery in Dufftown, Scotland.
What we thought…
“Full flavoured, crisp with a dry solid finish…easy to drink neat.” — Tim
“Bloody tops…give me another one…better still, give me the friggin’ bottle.” — Jack
“A scent like my grandfather’s desk, easy on the palate with a definitive, no–no nonsense finish.” — Ang
A beautiful soft mouth-feel. Goes down very easily. Reminds me of rainy days in summer. – Alex
“A genuinely top drop. Should be drunk around a campfire with mates after a long day’s ride.” — Todd
Their first release, The Sweet Toast of American Oak (aged 12 years, find out more here), proves spectacular things can happen when ancient technique meets fresh ideas.
“Some would call us ‘aff our heeds’, but I suppose you’ve got to try something really different now and again,” explains Mashman Brian Webster.
At only 25, Apprentice Malt Master Kelsey McKechnie had earned her place at The Balvenie table. Valued for her fearless approach to experimentation that she marries with a genuine respect for craft. “I love trying to understand the changes to The Balvenie whisky that happen during the making process,” she explains. “It helps me appreciate how much the craft has evolved over time and how specific flavours are created.”
At a get-together with the team, the seed of an idea took root in her mind for an experiment to produce an even fruitier, sweeter-tasting Balvenie. “We’re constantly looking to try different things, this was an experiment to see what could happen,” she says. “The idea was to pull out as much of the flavour of the wood as possible.”
The seed quickly developed into an ambitious plan. Supported by the expertise of Malt Master David C Stewart, Kelsey sourced Kentucky Virgin Oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky. A family-run business since 1963, Kelvin use the finest quality oak for their casks, toasting each one uniquely in the open fires. Paul McLaughlin, of Kelvin Cooperage, explains: “The only wood we burn on the fire is white oak. And the smell, you’re really activating all the vanillins within the American Oak, it’s kind of a nutty, marzipany smell, like freshly baked bread.”
Once the barrels safely arrive on Scottish soil, the pre-toasted casks are given an extra deep toast in The Balvenie Cooperage to drive the heat further into the wood and bring out as much flavour as possible. As Head Cooper, Ian McDonald asserts: “We’re adding extra life and flavour into the wood. After it’s spent 6 weeks in transit from Kentucky to Dufftown, our signature Balvenie burn refreshes the wood, bringing out all the flavour, colour, vanilla.”
And then the wait begins. With a smile Kelsey explains: “In whisky nothing happens overnight.” The toasted casks are filled with whisky aged primarily in ex-bourbon casks, before being laid down to mature for a few more months, a process known as ‘cask finishing’ and pioneered by Kelsey’s mentor, David C Stewart. “In the glass this is a complex whisky with incandescent notes of caramelised fruits, delicate vanilla and oak.
Every step along the journey, which spans 3,792 miles from the dusty heat of Kentucky to the verdant hills of Speyside, is finely tuned to produce the finest and sweetest whisky. A magical combination of nature, chemistry and ingenuity, and a happy ending to our story.
The Balvenie Stories collection are available in select premium bars and whisky venues nationally and at Dan Murphy’s; The Sweet Toast of American Oak (RRP $110), The Week of Peat (RRP $150) and A Day of Dark Barley (RRP $1,050). To learn more about The Balvenie Stories collection, head online to http://www.thebalvenie.com/stories.