The Balvenie Distillery Story

let’s begin

The legendary William Grant first founded the Balvenie Distillery in 1892. It was originally created with the purpose of distilling malt to fulfil demand at Glenfiddich, Grant’s other distillery.

Where it all began

William Grant was an enterprising entrepreneur who had humble beginnings, working as a cattle herd on the family farm. He became a bookkeeper at a distillery, and from here found a passion for the art.

In 1886 he was able to open Glenfiddich, a brand that thrives to this day. He was also one of the first to pioneer single malts over blends. Glenfiddich was in high demand and Grant decided it was time to open a new distillery.

The Balvenie came to life in 1892 and is based in the Speyside region, on the same site as Glenfiddich and Grant’s other distillery, Kininvie.

Staying in the Family

Balvenie, unlike most distilleries, has never left the hands of the William Grant company. It is not uncommon for distilleries to change hands many times throughout their lifetime, but Balvenie have been one of the exceptions.

Glenfiddich and Kininvie are the same, having always been part of the Grant family of distilleries. Kininvie is the youngest of the three, having only opened in 1990.

Blend to Single Malt

Most of the malt made at Balvenie went to Grant’s blends, but this changed when single malts became more popular in the 1970s. It had previously been used to bolster Grant’s Standfast blend, but in 1973 it was released as a single malt.

In the 1990s, Balvenie became one of the first distilleries to “finish” their Whisky, when they released Doublewood. This expression was aged first in Bourbon casks for ten years and then placed in sherry casks for a further 2 years.

The distillery pioneered this process and are still carrying on the DoubleWood range today, releasing some of their most expensive malt under this label.

When visiting the distillery whilst it was on shutdown a few months ago I was lucky enough to sample some wonderful expressions from The Balvenie, here’s how I got on…

Balvenie DoubleWood

Bottle cost: £39.95

Toffee, citrus, oaky, lemon and caramel. Fresh apples. Palate fresh, creamy, lemon citrus character, coconut, soft, smooth and malty. Slightly spicy too with lingering spice on the finish. Wise beyond its years.

Balvenie 30 Year Old

Bottle cost: £775

Soft, aromatic, slightly smoky – like the best old school Speysiders, oaky vanilla, soft bananas, the most amazing palate; sweet, that smoky note again, cherries, nutty, milk chocolate, slightly vegetal with notes of a good Victoria sponge. Chewy and memorable. Like drinking crime brûlée.

Tun 1509, 52.6% ABV

Exceptional nose. Biscuity character, banana notes and a remarkable about of juicy red fruits. Water opens it up to be more about tropical fruits and coconuts, waxy, thick, chewy and utterly brilliant.

The Balvenie Warehouse 42 Year Old

Dusty, tobacco leaves, pineapple cubes, kiwi fruits, strawberries and cream, lemon citrus notes. Bonfire embers and happiness. So smooth with caramel, toffee and that slight smoke note from the thirty. So good.
Filled in 1974. Not possible to buy.

Balvenie 30 Year Old

Bottle cost: £155

Plastic fruit sweets, vanilla, dark fruits and a raft of different spices and fresh orchard fruits.
Smooth, solid citrus and juicy port wine notes. Lovely.

The Balvenie 15 Year Old single sherry barrel

Thick, string sherry notes and character, white pepper and spicy notes, but there’s a sweetness there, with lots of cayenne spices and cardamom notes permeate through. Waxy, big, bold, brilliant.

What do you think of The Balvenie Distillery? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Balvenie DistilleryGlenfiddichGrant'sKininvieSpeyside region
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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