William Grant was born 19 December 1839 and spent the early part of his life working on his Father’s farm before leaving home to train as an office clerk. In 1866, Grant took a job as bookkeeper at Mortlach Distillery, a position he would hold for 20 years. Leaving his role at Mortlach in 1886, Grant bought land near Balvenie Castle upon which to build a distillery of his own. Glenfiddich distillery opened later that year and would go on to become one of the most famous single malts in the world.
In 1892, Grant decided to expand his empire by building a second distillery adjacent to the first. Originally named Glen Gordon, the distillery would become known as Balvenie, after the castle ruins that lay close by.
For most of it’s life Balvenie provided filler for the Grants blend and was rarely, if ever, bottled as a single malt. This changed with the arrival in 1990 of a third distillery on Grant’s land. Kininvie distillery relieved the pressure on Balvenie and allowed some of the malt produced there to be released as a single malt, a situation that further improved with the opening of Ailsa Bay distillery at Girvan. In fact, Balvenie is now one of the fastest growing single malt brands in the world.
Though perhaps not the pioneer of the practice, Balvenie were at least quick to experiment with cask finishes with the release of the Doublewood in 1993. The idea behind this expression was to take whisky matured in bourbon casks and transfer to Oloroso sherry casks for a ‘finishing’ period – a system now commonplace within the modern whisky industry.
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 17.5 / 20. The nose is rich and complex… Raisins, Apple, Berries, Oak and the faintest suggestion of Smoke.
Taste: 18 / 20. Spicy on the palate with Cinnamon and Pepper along with Caramel, Raspberry and Butter Pastry with Wood and, as with the nose, a tiny hint of Peat lingering in the background.
Value for Money: 8 / 10. Should cost somewhere between £35 and £40, not a lot to pay for a dram with this much character.
Total: 43.5 / 50. So much more than Glenfiddich’s wee brother, Balvenie is a different beast entirely and a fantastic dram in it’s own right.