Thursday, July 05, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #114

Balvenie Scotch ReviewBalvenie 12 yo

Speyside Single Malt Whisky

40% abv
$50 (USD)

When I first moved to Scotland and my whisky interests were in their infancy, I clearly remember this whisky coming in closer to £25 than £30. And over this past weekend we learned that whisky prices will accelerate at 3 times the rate of inflation in order to "keep up with demand". A price rise of at least 10% is to be expected on whisky over the next year. This seems absolutely absurd as the trend of emerging markets is hardly new, it has been clearly occurring over the past 10+ years. We have seen some whisky makers adjust. How does selling more of something make it more expensive?
Read the news HERE.

Whisky is not truffles or diamonds. It is manufactured. Now, I understand the whisky industry is unique in that it takes years to adjust to demands because of the nature of the product, Lagavulin phenomenon of price jumps 2003-6, etc. but after 200 years of existence, the whisky industry should be experts at market predictions. Information I have to hand shows that in 1997 malt whisky was produced at 88% of capacity and has dropped to 70%-ish over the past 10 years. Same trend with grain production. So there should be plenty of whisky over 10 years old. And if production was mistakingly decreased since 2000, I don't see why the consumer should have to bear the brunt of this error.
Maybe they shouldn't have been spending all their stocks on this and that finish and creating Pink whisky.

This definitely seems like just a cash grab while the going is good. Additonally, it is feared that now that the smoking ban is in full effect in the UK, drinks might be the next target. Whether this is true or not, it cannot be denied that the many good years whisky has had of no tax increases on spirits is likely to be met with an imminent increase. Lucky for us, this will coincide with the 10% price increase. Again, this trend is much in line with premiumisation strategies and subsequently I imagine (and fear) a whole section of whisky drinkers will be edged out.

Right, enough of that rant. So, Balvenie...

Malt Master David Stewart is quite a legend in the whisky world and he has been responsible for some of the biggest brands in whisky for over 30 years. This is nothing new at William Grant and Sons, as Grant himself remained active at the distillery until he was 83. Balvenie is one of the largest distilleries in Scotland (although it is often overshadowed by its neighbour, Glenfiddich) and was used exclusively for blending until 1973 when it joined the emerging malt market, largely initiated by Glenfiddich. Today, about 50% of Balvenie's output is destined for blends.

In addition to what was said yesterday, the Grant's distilleries have their own cooperage and malt 10% of their needs in their own floor maltings. All of these factors make it an ideal distillery to visit as one can witness all the stages of whisky production on one site... a rare experience these days.

This particular expression is matured in traditional ex-bourbon hogsheads for a full 12 years and then put down for a further maturation in sherry buts for 9 months. Hence Double Wood.

Again, I express my gratitude to Wm Grant&Sons for sending me these samples.


Standing in a farmers market near fresh, ripe fruit. Hay. Marmalade. Apple and rhubarb pie. Gentle sherry and banana or strawberry sponge/foam candies.

Surprised by some smoke, beautifully integrated with sweet malt and sherry flavours. Spice and tobacco. It is creamy and toasty and fruity and... more please? Long lingering woodiness.


Quite different than I remember it. That is the fun, isn't it; you can't enjoy going through a whisky life saying "had it, had it, havent had it, had it..." A malt can change from year to year, but more importantly, YOU change from year to year. But yeah, this is different than I remember. Fuller finish and more oak. Mellow and rich, great toastiness and smoke that would absolutely stun the lucky drinker alongside (or as) a nice dessert after a big meal. Yum.

Malt Mission #111
Malt Mission #112
Malt Mission #113
Malt Mission #115

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the whisky that started it all for me. ¡Sí señor!