Distillery of the week: Balvenie, Speyside

An old classic that still manages to surprise with excellent new whiskies

Published 2nd Apr 2015
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Balvenie is the quiet studious sister to the more famous, theatrical Glenfiddich.

The Speyside distillery is more than famous in its own right of course, sold world wide and known in most whisky drinking corners of the world, its stunning consistency in producing wonderful double matured malts has kept its reputation growing.

Led by the more than capable Dave Stewart (trust us that's an understatement), a man who has worked for William Grants and Sons since 1962, and who has been the company's malt master and master blender for over forty years.

Mr Stewart has led the industry in many key areas but is perhaps best known for pioneering the art of 'finishing' better known as double cask maturation, which has now become an industry standard. This type of maturation is perhaps shown most famously in Balvenie's DoubleWood range.

Balvenie distillery itself was built by William Grant in 1892, following on the back of the success at Glenfiddich, and was originally intended to be named Glen Gordon. Grant brought in equipment from Lagavulin and Glen Albyn and began production in 1893.

The first official distillery bottling arrived in 1973 and the now famous Founders reserve followed in 1982.

The distillery is one of the only ones that still do their own maltings (around 15 per cent).

Little known fact, Balvenie actually has a second smaller distillery hidden within its grounds known as kininvie, the two are blended with stable mate Glenfiddich to create Monkey shoulder, a cracking little blended malt that is well worth checking out.

Kininvie distillery. Picture:  CC

Kininvie distillery. Picture: CC


Balvenie Doublewood 12 years old: The now famous Doublewood is an excellent example of a sherry wood finish that showcases a balance that's hard to find in other sherry finished malts. Aged in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to European sherry casks, it offers a warm, rich with toffee and vanilla notes whisky that is complemented by subtle hints of fruit. Perfect for those who love their fruity whiskies.

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Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old: A cracking little release that will surprise more than a few, carrying on Dave Stewart's recent cask expressions. Beginning life in ex-bourbon casks before being finished off in Caribbean rum casks, the Caribbean cask is a lot more punchy than its 14 years would have you believe. Interestingly, the rum itself is a blend of Mr Stewart's creation that is matured in the casks that are used to finish this wonderful 14 year old. The result is a whisky that carries the traditional honey and vanilla flavour of Balvenie spirit, married with exciting hints of molasses and coconut.

Balvenie 21 year old Port cask: A wonderfully aged Balvenie, that shows all the balance of its age and an  interesting use of Port pipes to finish, that really gives it a citrus punch. Bottled at the slightly higher abv of 47.6%, this is one for those who love a whisky with strong character and a unique taste. The port pipes don't just import outstanding flavours but also a wonderful colour that is only seen in this type of finish. Definitely one to offer guests after a dinner party.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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