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Introducing The Balvenie Stories

First Launched at Fortnum's

The Balvenie whisky has been hand-crafted at The Balvenie Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland since 1892. First opened by William Grant, the distillery is the last in Scotland that still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings and keeps both a coppersmith and a team of coopers - who make the whisky barrels - on site.

Weaving in the anecdotes of three key figures at the Balvenie Distillery, The Balvenie Stories collection highlights the journey behind their three new whiskies - with the voices, memories and taste of each whisky telling its own tale. You can listen to these stories here.


The Sweet Toast of American Oak

The first story begins with Ian McDonald - Head Cooper - who celebrated his 50th anniversary at The Balvenie this year. In collaboration with Kelsey McKechnie - Apprentice Malt Master at The Balvenie - Ian shipped American Oak casks over from Kentucky to create a unique whisky.

The deeper taste of their American Oak whisky comes from the toasting (heating) of the barrel. When toasted the barrel's lignin (a polymer found in plant cells) breaks down which imparts sweet vanilla flavours into the whisky.

To craft The Sweet Toast of American Oak Ian and Kelsey gave this whisky a second toast, resulting in an even sweeter, more developed flavour. This is a technique that has never been done before at The Balvenie.

The Week of Peat

The second story of The Balvenie Stories features Ian Millar - former Distillery Manager. Around Scotland there are peat bogs, which are formed by vegetation that has decayed over thousands of years. The peat is cut into blocks that then dry and can be used as an energy source to heat the barley in a kiln.

The level of smokiness of a whisky is determined by the time the barley grain is exposed to the pungent peat smoke during drying.

The Balvenie peated their first barley in 2000 to be distilled into whisky, resulting in a smoky, earthy flavour. The Week of Peat whisky is an ode to the ancient peating process which has been used at The Balvenie for many years.

A Day of Dark Barley

The final story of the series features Maltman, Robbie Gormley, and Mashman, Brian Webster. On a normal day at The Balvenie Distillery in 1992, some unusually dark, brittle barley was delivered to the distillery's courtyard and picked up by Robbie and Brian. The delivery took everybody by surprise, as it was very different to the light barley they normally recieve.

The dark barley was then kept seperate from the other barley in the malt house. In the malt house the dry barley is stored in the loft and is then dropped in small batches of eight tonnes into tanks to activate it. After the barley is steeped it is spread across the floor to germinate.

The chocolate malt, as the dark barley is called, is usually used to make beer. Resulting in a 26-year-long experiment, the final result has notes of soft brown sugar, honey and a mild oaky spiciness.

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