Don’t you sometimes wish your tipple could talk? Oh, the stories it could tell – tales of the terroir and its vagaries, the human labour of love that’s poured into each cask, or the funny wrenches that fate often throws in the production works. It’s this rich history which Speyside distillery The Balvenie strives to bottle with its latest range of single malt whiskies, The Balvenie Stories.
The Balvenie Stories range comprises three expressions, the latter two of which officially launched in Singapore this November: The Sweet Toast of American Oak (12YO), The Week of Peat(14YO),and A Day of Dark Barley (26YO). Each expression toasts the craftsmanship and quirky twists that have shaped The Balvenie’s illustrious production history. Thanks to NFC-enabled tags on each bottle, these whiskies can (almost) speak – scanning the tags with your smartphone enables access to audiobooks of stories, told by the smooth-voiced masters behind the malts themselves.
A reincarnation of The Balvenie Peat Week launched in 2017, The Week of Peat tells the tale of an unplanned week’s gap in the production schedule back in 2002. Seized by the spirit of experimentation, Malt Master David Stewart MBE and former distillery manager Ian Millar built a peat burner on the side of the kiln and brought in a batch of Speyside peat. The rest, as they say, is history – The Balvenie has reeked of glorious peat smoke for one week a year ever since. The fruit of their labours is a rounded, floral expression gently overlaid with smokiness. A noseful of burnt caramel gives way to vanilla laced with sweet peat notes on the palate, with a flourish of spiced lemon coming through.
Meanwhile, A Day of Dark Barley (26 year old) harks back to the unexpected arrival of a batch of dark roasted malt barley, more commonly used to brew stouts, one fine summer day in 1992. From the furore of figuring out where to store this surprise, to the tar-black mash it yielded, every step of production was strange and memorable for the Balvenie folks. The resultant dark gold was released in 2006 as the 14 Year Old Roasted Malt, but some casks were withheld for further maturation and eventually produced a deeper, oakier sister bottling – A Day of Dark Barley. Opening with bold whiffs of toffee and burnt toast, this aged malt boasts a thick mouthfeel and an initial treacle sweetness. Warm notes of oak spices linger with a kick of gingery heat on the finish.
The youngest expression in the range is The Sweet Toast of American Oak(12 year old), is unfortunately not available in Singapore at the moment. Created by Apprentice Malt Master Kelsey McKechnie, the whisky was matured in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years before being finished in twice-toasted virgin American oak casks. This Balvenie reputedly skews fruity and sweet, with candied citrus notes playing well with strong waves of oak vanilla.
In the mood for some storytelling to accompany your dram? Besides the NFC tag on each bottle, these whisky stories can also be accessed online at The Week of Peat, A Day of Dark Barley, and The Sweet Toast of American Oak respectively. Each podcast includes guided audio tastings of the expression with Malt Master Stewart, and Apprentice Malt Master McKehnie. Talk about a fine drinking companion!