CLUBHOUSE | SINGLE MALTS
Happy Monday Whisky editor John Bruce enjoys an early-in-the-week tasting of The Balvenie, one of Dufftown's finest products.
s many of us have come to realise, certain habits and routines become comfortable as one gets older. Maybe it’s my protestant work ethic, but for me, Sunday is almost always alcohol free as toiling looms, Monday and Tuesday welcome abstinence as the companion of the attrition of the workplace; Wednesday just swings the balance and Thursday invites appreciation of liquid leisure – hopefully of a fine single malt variety that promises much, occasionally fulfilled, for the weekend. I shall hasten to explain that in September I received an invitation to a tasting hosted by Dr Samuel Simmons, brand ambassador of The Balvenie. Excited as I was by the opportunity to sample some fine expressions from this family-owned distillery, I was somewhat aghast to learn that the invitation specified 3pm on a Monday afternoon at the Angel’s Share on Wyndham Street. Angels are obviously immune to the tyranny of employment, as indeed is my publisher who readily agreed to join me on this untimely appreciation of one of Dufftown’s finest products. Just down the road from Glenfiddich and in the same ownership of William Grant & Sons Ltd, this distillery eschews modernity to a great extent and produces a fine variety of expressions – from their core 12 years old Doublewood, through to the recently released and immensely scarce 50 year old. Indeed, Dr Simmons describes The Balvenie as “the finest example of handcrafted, 19th century Scotch whisky-making in the 21st century”. I proceeded to my Monday tasting and duly turned up at the Angel’s Share with an eager palate and an open mind. As compromises go, it was a particularly rewarding one. Four expressions of The Balvenie were on offer: The 12 year old Doublewood, the 15 year old Single Barrel malt, the 21 year old Portwood and the Balvenie 30 year old were more than liberally poured and distributed around the tables. 24
HK Golfer・NOV 2012
Not surprisingly, the single bottle of the recently released 50 year old – which celebrates the 50 years that Malt Master David Stewart has worked for the distillery – that has made it to Asia was not available for tasting. The Scot in me puts that down to its price tag of HK$250,000. I remain hopeful that the publisher had not, at that point, decided on my Christmas bonus. Restricted by the editor’s all consuming desire for brevity, I shall comment only briefly on the sampled malts. The Doublewood is created from the waters of the Robbie Dubh Springs, unpeated and aged in sherry and bourbon casks. The traditional production process has produced an absolute gem of single malt. Although, close in geographical provenance and under the same ownership as the Glenfiddich, they are at best kissing cousins and instantly distinguishable. This expression has a surprisingly sweet nose with no overpowering alcohol, a spicy and still sweet taste and a really long finish. While its pricing in Hong Kong has yet to be confirmed, it retails at about £30 (HK$375) in the UK and is an absolute bargain. Of the three other expressions, my favourite by a considerable distance was the 15 year old single cask expression. A slight danger with that is that the product being from a single cask of a single distillation is not entirely homogenous. Each cask produces a maximum of 350 bottles and there cannot fail to be small, subtle differences between each. The skill of David Stewart is such that this expression receives continuous high marks in tastings. Slightly more alcoholic, bottled at 47.8 per cent ABV, this benefits from a splash of water. It is not as sweet as the 12 year old but has a marvelous combination of oak and spice flavours at its heart that lingers in a long dry finish. The two older expressions had much to recommend them and the publisher was very keen on the 21 year old. The 15 year old remains my choice however – it is one of best that I have sampled this century – and is much more likely to feature in the publisher’s Christmas bonus package than the 50 year old. If that is the case, I may have finally (courtesy of The Balvenie) have had a good Monday. HKGOLFER.COM