The scotch industry's longest-serving malt master, The Balvenie's David Charles Stewart, isn't going anywhere just yet, although he has started creating his handover notes. Last night saw the launch of The Balvenie DCS Compendium, a liquid and written record of Stewart's experience in the industry.
The full compendium will take five years to launch, with the total 25 single-cask whiskies being released five at a time, once a year. Chapter One, (the first five whiskies), was unveiled last night at The Wallace Collection in London. The brand's global brand ambassador Sam Simmons, as well as Stewart himself, helped to present the collection of whiskies, consisting of one from each decade going back to the 60s.
Each chapter of the accompanying Compendium book has a theme, which will relate to the five whiskies associated with that chapter. The first chapter is entitled Distillery Style, followed by The Influence of Oak, Secrets of the Stock Model, Expecting the Unexpected, and Malt Master's Indulgence.
Chapter One's youngest whisky (and indeed the youngest ever to be bottled by The Balvenie), the 2005 (57.5% abv), was a vibrant, lively spirit with sweet oats on the nose, leading to a grainy, malty, toffee sweetness, and a slight floral note. Another highlight was the venerable and elusive 1968 (45.9% abv), with an aroma like a forest cabin - wood and pine - with elegance on the palate, combining gentle dried floral notes with a gentle oakiness. No less impressive were the remaining three, from 1978, 1985 and 1997.
Only 50 sets of Chapter One will be released, each valued at £27,000, although individual bottles will also be available to buy (from £400 to £19,000).
'After so many years at the distillery, it was important to capture the skills and knowledge that I, and my fellow craftsmen from the distillery, have acquired over the years in a very special way,' said Stewart. 'I am sure those who have come to appreciate The Balvenie will enjoy taking the time to explore The Balvenie DCS Compendium, just as we have enjoyed creating it.'