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William Grant’s Balvenie Distillery
William Grant was born on the 19th December 1839 and spent much of his early life working on his Father’s farm. After training as an office clerk, however, he found employment as a bookkeeper at the Mortlach Distillery in Dufftown, where he worked for the next 20 years.
Grant was a man of great ambition and in 1886 he left his position at Mortlach and bought land near Balvenie Castle upon which he began to build his own distillery. Glenfiddich went into production on Christmas Day that year and would soon go on to become one of the most famous single malt distilleries in the world.
By 1892, Grant had decided the time was right to expand his empire with the construction of a second distillery on the same estate. At first, named Glen Gordon, this new enterprise would eventually come to be known as Balvenie, after the crumbling old castle which lay nearby.
For much of its existence, the Balvenie distillery produced whisky bound for Grant’s blended Scotch range and was rarely, if ever, bottled as a single malt. This position changed in 1990 when a third distillery was constructed on Grant’s land. Kininvie was able to relieve the pressure on Balvenie and freed up some of the malt for an official bottling. This situation has only been improved further with the construction of the Ailsa Bay malt distillery within the Grivan grain plant. It seems the decision to release Balvenie as a single malt in its own right was a wise one, with the brand now one of the fastest growing on the market.
Balvenie was one of the first Scotch whiskies to undergo the practice known as ‘cask finishing’, an experiment which led in 1993 to the release of ‘Doublewood’, a single malt matured in bourbon barrels before being transferred for a secondary maturation in Oloroso sherry casks. Though unusual at the time, this process has now become commonplace across the entirety of the Scotch whisky industry.
Smell: The nose is rich and complex with Raisins, Apple, Berries and Oak. Perhaps even the faintest suggestion of Smoke.
Taste: Wonderfully spicy on the palate with Cinnamon and Pepper along with Caramel, Raspberry and Butter Pastry with a touch of Wood and, like the nose, a hint of Peat drifting in the background.
Thoughts: Balvenie is so much more than Glendiddich’s wee brother. The whisky is a completely different beast and a fantastic dram in its own right. It’s a full-bodied dram with typically fruity Speyside notes. Those sherry casks add an extra layer to proceedings, however, creating a dram that’s a little more complex than you’d maybe expect from a 12-year-old at 40% abv. Prices seem to have climbed a little in recent years and I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay £45 for it these days but I can still recognise Balvenie Double Wood as a quality single malt bottling.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.