More Malt

26th October 2013

Carlton House Club


Our second Malt Tasting was presented by Dr Andrew Forrester, UK Brand Ambassador from the Balvenie Distillery who came along to help us understand the way that the same basic spirit can change significantly following it's maturation in different casks.   Our grateful thanks to 

The Balvenie

The Balvenie is owned by William Grant and Son and is Located in Dufftown on Speyside, in Scotland.   It is one of the few distilleries which still grows its own barley and keeping faith with a traditional malting floor, the last of its kind in the Scottish Highlands. To complete the tradition, their resident coppersmith maintains the stills and a team of coopers ensure each barrel is in perfect condition with David Stewart, the Malt Master presiding over the all-important maturation process.

Andrew's stories about the development of the industry from the early days of small independent, often illegal stills dotted around the Scottish mainland to the global reaching international brands of today was interesting, intriguing and often humorous, especially the tricks which the distillers played on the Exciseman to ensure that they and not HMGov got their free share of the spirit they had just made.

He introduced 5 different expressions from the Balvenie plus a sample of New Make Spirit which enabled us to compare and contrast the effect which different storage casks can have of the original base product.   But where to start?   Where else but the spirit straight out of the Still. 

New Make Spirit

A real treat was this opportunity to have a (very small) sample of this clear, water like liquid to try.  Certainly looked nothing like the whisky you see on the shelves, this New Make Spirit had been produced earlier in the week and had been bottled straight out of the distillation process purely for our tasting.   The sample had to be small as we were tasting an extremely strong spirit of over 70% - and this was only the starter.   

Oily to touch, oily feel to the mouth but no flavour, harshness nor peat and smooth when swallowed.  Bland was a word used by many and a real surprise that this strong, yet innocuous liquid could grow into the next in line which was

12 YO Doublewood

The Doublewood as the name suggests was aged in refill American oak casks before being finished in first fill European oak Sherry casks, an excellent example of just what the Balvenie distillery can produce even at the relatively young age of 12 years.

Each stage lends different qualities to the resulting single malt ~ the traditional casks soften and add character, whilst the sherry wood brings depth and fullness of flavour.

17 YO Doublewood Peated Cask

To craft DoubleWood 17 Year Old, David Stewart, The Balvenie Malt Master returned to one of his most celebrated achievements – consecutive maturation in two different types of cask, a process often referred to as ‘cask finishing’.   The 17 year old is the elder sibling of the 12 year old and shares a number of characteristics only more evident.

This technique is at the heart of The Balvenie DoubleWood – it sees the whisky matured first in American oak barrels, which impart soft sweet vanilla notes, before being transferred to European oak sherry casks, where the second cask ageing adds rich spicy flavours and a depth and fullness of flavour. 

15 YO Single Barrel

This 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Cask is a relatively new member of the Balvenie - a single malt Scotch whisky fully matured in Sherry casks. Released in fairly small batches from a single cask, each one being hand numbered we were honoured to have had the opportunity to taste such a rare beast.    Andrew pointed out that although no two casks are exactly the same, the casks are carefully selected by Balvenie's Malt Master, David Stewart who aims to feature a consistent, rich, spiced character, complimented by hints of elegant oak in each bottle produced.

21 YO Portwood

This is the flagship single malt from the distilleries range of Port Wood whiskies. 

Again, the basic spirit will age in traditional casks until it is time to be finished in thirty year old port pipes or casks or pipes which have held fine port wine.  Whilst it is in these casks or pipes, it is regularly samples by the The Balvenie Malt Master to ensure that just the right amount of character is imparted by the port casks, enhancing and developing the single malt whilst preserving its original characteristics. Normally sold through duty free outlets The Balvenie PortWood Aged 21 Years is non chill-filtered and bottled at a higher strength of 47.6% abv.  If travelling overseas, take the opportunity to buy this brilliant

Caribbean Cask

This whisky has been matured for 14 years in traditional oak casks before being transferred for a short time into casks which had previously been holding Caribbean rum.   Bottled at 40%, rhe result sees some extra and unusual flavours being  transferred to the spirit, creating a well-rounded and drinkable whisky which has discernible hints of fruit and vanilla.   A bit sweeter than the normal whiskies, this is a Limited Edition bottling which will inevitably become a collectors item through time and Andrew may well have sown the seed of whisky as a future investment to a few of our visitors.

A great evening hosted by a great speaker who made his talk come alive with plenty of anecdotes, loads of knowledge and a great range of malts.  

The club really does appreciate the support of The Balvenie and anyone wanting to sample the 12 year old can do so at the Carlton House Club which normally carries a bottle amongst its range of malts.