The Balvenie, a single-malt Scotch normally distinguished by the almost complete absence of peat in its whiskies, has unveiled a novel Peated Cask limited edition that introduces smoke to the Speyside malt through a novel use of aging casks.
Peat smoke typically joins the whisky-making process in the beginning when burning chunks of the decomposed vegetal matter dry the barley on its way to fermentation. Peated Cask gets its smoke quotient at the very end of the process when some of the whisky is shortly finished in casks that formerly held peated spirit.
The technique was developed by The Balvenie’s master distiller David Stewart as a whisky-finishing experiment. The distillery had bought heavily peated barley from a local supplier in 2001 and made it into spirit. It was first aged in one set of barrels before being transferred to another. The original barrels —having been priming in peated whiskey—were then utilized to age 17-year-old Balvenie for an extra several months. That finish picked up vestiges of the peat smoke from the wood. At the same time, Stewart had taken another set of traditionally aged17-year-old Balvenie and finished it in new American-oak casks. The two finished liquors were then mixed together in traditional oak marrying vessels.
This latest 17-year-old Balvenie expression is the seventh in a series of novel whiskies developed by Stewart. Past expressions have included Islay Cask, New Oak, Rum Cask and Madiera Cask.
Balvenie has also announced that it is introducing the Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask to its permanent core range. The new liquor was inspired by Stewart’s success with the limited-edition Balvenie 17-Year-Old Rum Cask of 2008. It enjoys a similar finish in a variety of rum casks sourced through the Caribbean, but at a younger age.
BALVENIE PEATED CASK 17-YEAR-OLD
Appearance: Bright, light amber, with some copper. Quick sturdy legs.
Nose: The peat is there, but in no sense overpowering . Floral notes as well as vanilla, honey and spice are the prominent aromas.
Palate: The peat appears in the mouth as toasted bread—not smoky or iodine-like at all in the way you’d expect from a big Islay malt. It is also but one of this complex malt’s many charms. Vanilla, honey, spices and dried fruit escape to cover the palate after the initial warm toastiness dissipates.
Finish: The finish is medium to long with hard candy, fruit and cinnamon. This is a multifaceted malt worth adding to your collection bragging-rights whisky.
BALVENIE 14-YEAR-OLD CARIBBEAN CASK
Appearance: Light color, slight green tinge, quick legs.
Nose: Dried fruits and bananas play well with honey and caramel or toffee.
Palate: Very island-spicy influenced on the tongue. Cloves and licorice mix with Tiki spices and orange marmalade.
Finish: Ends with flavors of the palate, softly dying down like an old television picture tube when it’s turned off, and disappears into one insistent dot in the middle.