On Monday I accompanied a small group of invited guests on a very enjoyable Balvenie Day of Discovery led by Dr. Andrew Forrester (UK Brand Ambassador). Our day began with a tasty bar-lunch in the quaint village of Dufftown. It has been said that Rome was built on 7 hills and Dufftown on 7 stills. Certainly some of the finest Speyside malts have for centuries now been crafted in and around this small township. Names include The Glenfiddich, The Dufftown, Pittyvaich, Convalmore, Mortlach and our focus of yesterday The (most-excellent) Balvenie ~ some may say the quieter, perhaps more attractive sister of the Wm. Grant family's extrovert, world-renowned Glenfiddich.
There is a warm, welcoming atmosphere awaiting visitors arriving at The Balvenie distillery. From beneath the picturesque but still 'active' pagoda-roof, guided by Andrew, our group set off on a thoroughly enlightening tour of this historic distillery. The Balvenie naturally offers one of the industry's most complete and comprehensive tours. From the very start of their journey through The Balvenie handcrafted process, guests are introduced to the first of the '5 Rare Crafts'.
Not only does Balvenie Home Farm (i) produce barley for the whisky production but this is now the only mainland distillery with its own full-time (ii) malting-floor, where 4 men, working shifts, carefully monitor the progress and turning of the germinating barley. Then at the appropriate moment, decided by these malting experts, the barley is kiln-dried to add flavour and arrest the germinating process.
Visitors can witness and even try their hand at the turning of the growing grains that will constitute 10% of the cereal used in the production of the golden elixir that is The Balvenie. Balvenie has its own (iii) in-house cooperage ~ where trained coopers (a 7 year apprenticeship) check, repair and refurbish the all-important flavour and colour imparting oak-casks ~ ranging from American Oak/Bourbon barrels; European Oak/Oloroso sherry butts and Port Pipes.
Balvenie is the old distillery with its very own (iv) resident coppersmith, Dennis, who started at the distillery in the late 1950's. (v) Scotland's longest serving Malt Master, David Stewart, with over thirty years service with Wm Grant & Sons is responsible for expert nosing and careful choosing of the maturing malts prior to bottling. www.thebalvenie.com
Following on from our wonderful distillery visit with Andrew Forrester, Inshriach House www.inshriachhouse.com ~ a spacious, well-appointed Edwardian villa just outside Aviemore ~ was the venue for our exclusive whisky-tasting evening. Around 16 guests from the spirits trade and malt-whisky enthusiasts from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the local Badenoch area were treated to a very special tasting session led be Andrew and Balvenie's Global Ambassador Sam Simmons.
Providing practical insight into the full-process of malt-whisky production, The Balvenie distillery tour is a must for all whisky enthusiasts. All in all a most excellent, enlightening, extremely enjoyable experience.