We've explored the how and the why, now we take a walk (well, taste) through the frankly delicious Balvenie Chapter 3 of the DCS Compendium with brand ambassador Alwynne Gwilt…
The Balvenie 55yo (distilled 14 June 1961)
'This is the oldest whisky that The Balvenie has ever released, and marks a turning point in the distillery’s timeline, because it was made before David’s reign at the distillery,' says Gwilt. 'I’m amazed at how light the colour is at 55 years.' At this point, the liquid produced by the distillery was being used in blends or for trading.
A big, expressive nose of passion fruit, orange, pineapple, peach and pear mingles with violets and honeyed flapjacks. The palate is remarkably fresh and balanced for a whisky that’s over 50 years old, with all the notes from the nose accompanied by spicy pencil shavings and black pepper, before a juicy burst of blackcurrant and blackcurrant leaf on the finish. This is a truly stunning whisky.
41.7% abv, £35,000/70cl
The Balvenie 43yo (distilled 7 June 1973)
'This is my warm hug whisky,' explains Gwilt of this liquid that’s been aged in refill European oak sherry butt. '1973 was a boom time at The Balvenie. We were thinking about bringing The Balvenie out as a single malt in its own right as the Grant family saw the success of the launch of Glenfiddich’s single malt.'
The result is an incredibly balanced, velvety dram with a bright, aromatic nose of raspberries, peach and baked orange, plus sweeter aromas of dark chocolate, demerara sugar and melted butter. Warming flavours of sticky toffee pudding, candied orange peel, dying fire embers, cinnamon, almonds and salted caramel chocolate fudge brownies.
46.6% abv, £15,000/70cl
The Balvenie 35yo (distilled 29 October 1981)
'We launched Doublewood in 1993, but 1981 was the year that we started making whisky specifically for single malts, and the company had decided to concentrate on The Balvenie in its own right,' says Gwilt.
Aged in refill American oak, there’s plenty of honey and pear aromas, alongside hay barn, strawberry lace sweets, oatcakes and a floral jasmine/honeysuckle note. The palate has a gently waxy texture and is gently drying, with beeswax, tobacco leaf, black pepper and cocoa powder.
43.8% abv, £3,500/70cl
The Balvenie 23yo (distilled 6 December 1993)
'The Balvenie was relaunched with a core range of products, as a way of celebrating the centenary of the distillery being in operation,' explains Gwilt. 'We had the 15yo single barrel, Founder’s Reserve and Doublewood. This is the year that we go back to as a changing point for the distillery.'
Aged in a refill American oak hogshead, this is an intensely honeyed dram with aromas of honey, flapjacks, pear and cooked orange leading onto a rich palate of cooked orchard fruits and honey that dries out mid-palate with a saline edge, peppery bite and tobacco leaf before a banana-y finish.
51.9% abv, £900/70cl
The Balvenie 13yo (distilled 19 Jan 2004)
'2004 was an important year, because it was the 30th anniversary of David being malt master at The Balvenie. It was the year that we released the 30 Year Old too,' says Gwilt.
Aged in a European oak refill sherry butt, this has all the hallmarks of a modern European oak-aged whisky – prunes, dates, raisins, dried cranberries, sweet notes of toffee, caramel and cocoa and plenty of spice in the form of star anise, cinnamon and cloves.
58.2% abv, £600/70cl
It's been a busy time for The Balvenie, as it also launched a new addition to its core range last month.