Monday, July 19, 2010

Balvenie Tasting

Nicholas M Pollacchi (pictured above), the West Coast Brand Ambassador for the Balvenie, led a tasting of whiskey aficionados through the Balvenie portfolio of Scotch at Seven Grand last week. In addition to getting to taste four of the Balvenie scotches, the tasting focused on the things that make it a distinctive product.

The distillery owns 12,000 acres of barley, giving them control of their inputs and enabling them to grow the grain to its own specifications without being exposed to market fluctuations. The process of converting the grain to scotch whiskey is also significantly more labor intensive at the Balvenie compared to most other distilleries due to the continued use of traditional use and a rejection of mechanization. The distillery uses a malting floor, for example.

The tasting included the 17 year old Madeira Cask, which was initially aged in a bourbon cask for 17 years and then finished for 5-6 months in a cask which had previously been used to produce Madeira. The whiskey was smoky and sweet with the taste of dried fruit and a long finish. Its ABV is 43%. (~$110/bottle)

Another Belvenie which was aged in multiple types of casks is the Doublewood 12, which spent at least 12 years in bourbon casks before being finished in sherry casks for 6-9 months. It has some sweet and fruit flavor on the nose, with the sherry notes in the finish. Its ABV is 43%. (~$40/bottle)

The Single Barrel is aged 15 years in a bourbon cask. Vanilla and oak both came through in the taste of the single barrel. This is a signature offering of the distillery. Its ABV is 48%, 5% higher than the other offerings we tasted. (~$55/bottle)

The Portwood 21 is matured for 21 years in European and American oak and then aged in a port pipe (cask). Fruit came forward in the nose of this scotch to a much greater degree than any of the others above. Its ABV is 43%. (~ $170/bottle)

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