I remember being told an anecdote about the late great Michael Jackson, no not that one. The beer and whisky one.
He was on a press trip with a few journalists to an unnamed distillery which the whole group had at some point visited before. Within the group there were new journalists, seasoned journalists and all were wondering about not really listening to the distillery manager giving his usual talk about his distillery, Except Michael, who followed the distillery manager intently with pen and note book to hand. This status quo existed for the whole visit right through to the still rooms and onto the warehouses.
Someone asked Michael how many times he had been to the distillery, to which he answered “at least half a dozen times”. He was then asked “surely you don’t need to take notes, you must know all about it already”? To which Michael answered: “I always learn something new, for example I didn’t know the distillery was to be expanded, the wash still has had major repairs so it has taken time to regain the consistency, and they are experimenting with certain wood finishes which may be released next year”. The rest of the group looked decidedly sheepish.
So I set forth with my metaphorical notebook (my digital recorder), cameras and a keen interest for at least my sixth visit to Balvenie distillery. What was new to learn about Balvenie? I could wax lyrical about the history, the start of the distillery and development, the struggles and successes and the forging forward through the modern age. But for that I suggest any number of books. What I learnt was golden. David isn’t just a fountain of whisky knowledge, having been at Balvenie for so long, he has a view on the passing of recent history like nobody else I’ve met there. The people, the distillery and the innovation of the whisky. Twenty five years ago David started the Double Wood, which most of us now know as finishing or extra maturation, but it started with David. Some time ago he finished some whisky in a cask which previously held peated whisky, something he has revived, and interestingly so have a few other brands recently.
What started twenty five years ago now has three expressions. A twelve year old, a seventeen, and recently released to celebrate the 25th anniversary, a 25 year old. Fully matured in American oak casks and then finished for three months in Spanish oak ex-oloroso Sherry casks, this whisky has great smoothness and balance. David Stewart said “the final liquid has a lovely combination of sweetness and spice, with candied orange, layers of brown sugar and sweet dried fruits”.
The spirit was laid down in 1993, when the first Doublewood was released, and is bottled at 43% abv.
The Balvenie have also released an expression of the 12 year old with a commemorative label to celebrate the anniversary.
By Colin -Hampden-White