Among more than 120 Scottish Whisky distilleries are enclosed in a small region in the north of the country called Speyside. The abundance of pure water guaranteed by the River Spey and an ideal climate have favored the birth of hundreds of distilleries over the centuries, but there is an incredible concentration of whiskey-related activities in the village of Dufftown. Here we have about a thousand inhabitants and 7 active distilleries, thus it can easily be awarded as the World Whisky Capital.
From this privileged position, the historic Balvenie, founded in 1892, has decided to stop time and proudly keep some traditional production methods alive. The result is a Single Malt with great charm, as well as a perfect witness to the Scottish art of forging exceptional whiskies.
Distilleries have been buying the barley necessary for whisky production from outside for a long time now. Nor does the national specification stipulate that cereals must be of Scottish origin.
And yet the Balvenie Mains, a land of over 300 hectares adjacent to the distillery, is still planted with barley, which will be used for malting in the distillery.
The Balvenie remains the only one distillery in the Highlands to use a traditional malting floor for part of its production, where the wet barley is spread, turned by hand for days and malted in the historic proprietary oven.
This process requires a lot of energy and time, but allows you to fully manage the processing of the raw material. And there are fewer than 10 distilleries across Scotland that can still boast artisanal malting.
In each distillery rest thousands of barrels, through which the distillate will fulfill its alchemy over the years, developing unique aromas and flavors. Cask is king, they say.
It is therefore obvious that the quality of the woods is fundamental and for this reason a coopers' workshop is still in operation in Balvenie, a cooperage that assembles the various types of barrels and selects the most suitable staves. An activity now outsourced by many distilleries.
Malt Master David Stewart is today the most experienced person still operating in a Scottish distillery.
He began his career in Balvenie in 1962, at the age of 17, and has been among the protagonists of the birth and growth of the single malts category in the last half century.
David is the father of successful whiskies such as Balvenie 12 year old Double Wood, but he also got to create official bottlings by selecting 40 and 50 year old barrels.
With an extraordinary nose and sensitivity, David was among the first to experiment unconventional aging, studying double maturation techniques.
Until the 1960s, whisky was mostly aged in barrels of European oak formerly Sherry wine, then in recent decades the American oak used for Bourbon has taken over.
When this change took place, Malt Master David Stewart was among the first to realize that it was possible to use both woods in order to add complexity to the spirits.
Thus the selection steps by David Stewart becomes extremely important, creating three lines of Balvenie Single Cask: rare pieces, bottled without cold filtration and without artificial coloring that represent the style of the distillery at the highest levels, without compromising quality.