Balvenie Signature Batch 3

balvenie-signature

From time to time, everyone gets absorbed by marketing. It has its uses, granted, but at times it becomes a haze around you. Obscuring your vision, confusing your senses and trying to persuade your wallet to part with hard earned cash. Limited edition this, never seen again that. Argh!

The reason I have written this, is that it was refreshing to speak to David Stewart at the Balvenie Signature tasting recently (well not that recently. Over a month ago. Deadlines have kind of gone out the window of late). He’s man who has been involved in producing excellent whisky for many years, but is very much a down to earth person. He made everything seem so simple, from distilling, to ageing, to gathering hundreds of casks together, sampling, vatting and bottling. No marketing blurb, no nonsense, job done. This was refreshing, as I deal with lots of sales people and marketers. I don’t mind them (occasionally I am one, to a lesser extent), but sometimes I just want to get to the truth of the matter. How they made it and what it tastes like.

I would  like to say that I am not one of these bloggers who does not see the point in marketing all together. Look at John Walker and Tommy Dewar. If these men had not tried to tell the World that Scotch whisky was the best, then there would not be many single malt distilleries open today. Just sometimes you want to taste the whisky, and not worry about the marketing.

This tasting was conducted at a luxury guest house in a very plush part of Edinburgh. It seemed to be a secret guest house (I never knew such places existed. Good secret). High ceilings, open fire, lots of marble, piano and nice furniture. The toilets had pictures of such luminaries that had stayed there as Darius Danesh, among others (I was star struck). All a bit surreal.

Before the tasting started, I got a chance to speak to David. He talked me through the components of Balvenie Signature.

  • First Fill Bourbon casked Balvenie
  • Refill Bourbon casked Balvenie
  • Oloroso Sherry casked Balvenie

He explained that during the build up to vatting, he would nose some 250 casks to ensure quality. Of these, he would then probably reject about 10 casks that would not be up to his standard or did not have the correct flavour profile. It sounded in some ways, a brilliant job, but in other ways, quite gruelling. David Stewart used to be in charge of Grant’s blending too. Hard work.

In attendance, there were lots of different whisky people. Marketers, sales people, writers. Together, with David’s guidance, we were going to try the different elements of The Balvenie Signature.

Balvenie Signature Part 0

It is always worth tasting the new spirit. It gives you an idea of  the house style of the distillery before the barrel.

New Spirit (0 years)

Nose: Fruit esters, pears, apples. Rich and creamy, bit like a fruit Muller corner.

Palate: Apples and weirdly sour cream.

DrAndrew Forrester (Balvenie Brand Ambassador) suggested rubbing the new spirit in our hands. I had never tried this before, as I normally just drink it. It had an amazing affect. The smell released was oaty digestive biscuits. It was like being at the wash back at the distillery. I began to suspect that Dr Forrester was some sort of sorcerer. His spirit trick had transported me to the distillery wash backs. Then he started talking about flavour planets and whisky galaxies. Analogy or sorcery? You decide.

Balvenie Signature Part 1

First Fill American Bourbon Cask (12 years old)

Nose: Grapefruit, vanilla and grapes

Palate: Marzipan. almonds, icing sugar and coconut.

Someone asked ‘Why do Balvenie still do some of their own malting? Does it affect the flavour in your opinion?’. The answer was one that felt quite sincere: a keenness to stick to tradition and keep a traditional skill going.

Balvenie Signature Part 2

Refill Cask  (12 years old)

Nose: Startling similarity to new spirit. Aromatic.

Palate: Spicy and citrusy

Finish: Vanilla

Balvenie Signature Part 3

Oloroso Sherry Casks (12 years old)

Nose: Excellent. Plums, raisins. The dark tannins you get in red wine and obviously Oloroso sherry.

With water: Rum, brown sugar, marmalade and fruit cake.

Palate: Cinnamon, dark chocolate, caramel and cloves.

Finish: Heavy and rich

Dr Forrester said we were now on the chocolate flavour planet. Sorcery.

(Clearly Balvenie need to release a purely sherry matured whisky. Brilliant)

On Friday, I will post a quick dram of Balvenie Signature Batch 3 and reveal whether these parts blended together to produce a good whisky or a let-down.  More importantly, will Signature be better than the sherried Balvenie?

As an extra treat, on Friday there will be a competition to win a sample of Balvenie Signature Batch 3. Don’t say we are not good to you.

Chris

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