Over the months, George, our Master of Malt, has shared many of the malt whiskies that feature behind the bar at The Wild Boar. One that has become a firm favourite with the team here at The Boar is Balvenie Double Wood 12 year old.
Thanks to a unique combination of natural alchemy and centuries old craftsmanship, The Balvenie is unique among single malts as it is made in the only single malt whisky distillery that grows and malts its own barley.
Each year Balvenie Mains, their 1,000 acre farm, sows barley as they always have. The only concession made to the 21st century is the use of a combine harvester when the crop is ripe for harvesting. Apart from that, the farming process is the same way as it has been for centuries.
Balvenie Distillery (Image: Mary and Angus Hogg)[/caption]
It is also the only distillery in the Scottish Highlands to maintain and operate a working floor maltings . After steeping the grain in spring water sourced from the hills above the distillery, the grain is spread across the malting floor. The barley warms up as it starts to germinate and needs to do so evenly. Four experienced ‘malt men’ turn the barley up to four times a day until it’s ready for the kiln. Here it is dried using anthracite and a carefully judged amount of peat, which adds further complexity to the taste.
The shape and size of the stills is crucial to the whisky taste. Balvenie employ their own coppersmith to keep these in peak condition. If a new still is required, he will go through a process called ‘sweetening the still’ by cutting an armful of juniper branches and making sure they are the first things boiled inside. How much juniper, and for how long? “A good handful, and a good long while”. As their coppersmith says, “there’s nae science to it” – but he’s convinced that if one day (heaven forbid) someone should forget, a different spirit would emerge from the cask.
The Balvenie Coppers (Image: The Balvenie)[/caption]
The casks are so important to the taste of The Balvenie that the preparation and maintenance is trusted only to their on-site team of coopers. Some casks need to be ‘toasted’, just enough to open the pores but not enough to burn too deep… quite a skill! An apprenticeship takes four years, but the learning doesn’t stop there: it takes more years of experience to ensure everything is ‘wind and watertight’ every time.
The Balvenie DoubleWood is a 12 year old single malt which gains its distinctive character from being matured in two wood types. Over the period of maturation it is transferred from a traditional oak whisky cask to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Each stage lends different qualities to the resulting single malt ~ the traditional casks soften and add character, whilst the sherry wood brings depth and fullness of flavour.
The Balvenie with cheese paring at The Wild Boar[/caption]
George Hutton, Master of Malt[/caption]
Join George, our master of malt for our regular Whisky Tasting Evenings at The Wild Boar to learn more about our favourite whiskies.