Balvenie Academy Tasting Review

Kicking off my week of festivities was a trip on the Underground to Liverpool Street and the quietly hidden away Liberty Lounge and Mark Thomson of Dramatic Whisky. Mark heads up the tasting with expertise in Scotch as well as being part of 5* establishments in both Scotland and London. A former contributor to CLASS magazine (as well as last years London Cocktail Week), his enthusiasm for the subject is immense! With the time of day being an unfortunate factor, the event turned into a more one-on-one masterclass. A quick talk about the Balvenie 24 and their interactive venture involving videos of the distillery, as well as nosing techniques, we then made our way to Boisdale whisky bar.  

Here we met the global ambassador to Balvenie, Sam Simmons and the Balvenie range of Signature, DoubleWood, Single Barrel and PortWood. Both Sam and Mark explained the history of Balvenie and how it started with William Grant back in 1893. From their, we started to try the Balvenie range, first up being the Signature 12yr.

Below are my tasting notes on the 4 bottles available –

The range of Balvenie whisky to taste

 

 

Balvenie Signature 12yr – 40%

Matured first in bourbon, then refill bourbon and finally in sherry casks. On the nose, a very soft aroma of corn with honey and vanilla essences coming through later. The palate enjoys dried fruit balanced out with a soft spice that drives into a warm honey after-taste.

Balvenie DoubleWood 12yr – 40%

Starting its maturation in a traditional whisky cask, it is then transferred to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Sweet, rich aromas of fruit and honey mix together in your nose, but mellowing out into a smooth blend of raisin, nut and a slight cinnamon hint.

Balvenie Single Barrel 15yr – 47.8%

Created using only a single oak whisky cask of a single distillation. Each bottling forms a limited edition of no more than 350 hand-numbered bottles, meaning each bottle is unique and unrepeatable! The nose of soft corn and citrus with heather blended well in the nose and made its way onto the palate in the same manner, but a kick of oak and spiced apple hits you at the end. Sam recommended adding a drop of water to the dram, which gave it a spicier longer after-taste.

Balvenie PortWood 21yr – 40%

A blend of rare Balvenie is moved to port casks to create a strong yet fresh floral aroma with sweet notes and a hint of smoke on the nose. An extremely smooth and creamy flavour of fruit and honey on the palate.

My personal favourite was the Balvenie DoubleWood 12yr due to its sweetness and blend of raisin and cinnamon on the palate.

This was a great insight into the Balvenie range, especially as I’ll be visiting the distillery in January next year, and it has introduced me to yet another great personal favourite which I’ll be sourcing to put onto my shelf in the coming weeks!
Visit the Dramatic Website here – http://www.dramaticwhisky.com/

Check out the rest of the Balvenie range here – http://www.thebalvenie.com

 

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

BBFB American Odyssey Review

The Bacardi Training Team were back in Manchester recently for the next round of their training sessions, this time held in the Champagne and cocktail bar Epernay. Leanne and Tom were our hosts in this popular Manchester bar and perfect setting to learn about Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve!

The range of whiskey to be tasted

Starting off with a cocktail named Stonefence, a mix that I’ve surprisingly never heard off yet so simple – whiskey and cider! Apparantly made around the 1800’s in the time of Jerry Thomas, it was surprisingly nice and balanced quite well!

Leanne then spoke about the 400 year history of whiskey in America whilst we sampled rye whiskey (not very strong on the nose, gave off a soft vanilla scent. The taste gave a slight fire burn which resulted in a long after-taste). To be classed as Rye Whiskey, it must be made from at least 51% rye, distilled at less than 80 percent and stored in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years and most Rye whiskies are made in Indiana and Kentucky. An example of rye whiskey is Rittenhouse, a brand that I used to sell in my last place of work.

We then learnt about the start of whiskey, where in the late 1800’s, the Scottish and Irish settlers brought over to America their knowledge of the production of whisky and settled in the surrounding regions of Virginia. Since corn is native to America, this resulted in the use of corn as a basis for whiskey production. We tried a small sample of corn whiskey, before the start of maturation, that gave off a very overpowering and a scent of fresh bread which came more alive upon tasting. To compare, we also tried a wheat whiskey that gave a smooth scent and taste but a rather bland and virtually no recognisable flavour on the palate.

The legend of Elijah Craig was also explored. He apparently is credited in being the pioneer of the first true bourbon whiskey and also the charred barrel method of ageing the whiskey. Many stories for the charred barrel legend include that he purchased a barrel that had previously been used to store fish and burnt the inside to remove the smell. He then put his whiskey in and transported it down the river.

Next, the laws of American Bourbon were mentioned. These include –

  • Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA (but mainly found in Kentucky)
  • Only Bourbon from Kentucky can advertise the state in which it is made
  • Must contain at least 51% corn
  • However no more than 80% with the other 20-49% having a combination of rye, barley and wheat
  • All American whiskies must be aged in new American white oak casks that have been charred on the inside for at least 2 years.

As mentioned above, the charring of the barrels releases sweet and smoky flavours to the Bourbon which give it a stronger, more flavoursome whiskey than that of Scottish or Irish whisky. The barrels can’t be re-used, so they are sold to other spirit distillers of rum, tequila and Scotch.

The Epernay bar

The addition of ‘sour mash’ is also a signature of American whiskey. 25% of the mash from a previous batch is added to the fermentation process so to keep a consistent style.

The Lincoln County Process was also mentioned by Leanne, which is the main difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. In Tennessee, the whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before ageing and must be made by at least 51% of single grain and can only be made in Tennessee. This brought us nicely onto Jack Daniels. Being from Lynchburg, Tennessee, it is therefore classed as a Tennessee whiskey. We sampled Tennessee whiskey both before and after charcoal ageing. The before whiskey had the same nose as corn however the taste wasn’t as strong and gave a smoother more delicate flavour. The post whiskey had a more subtle nose and a creamier taste than before charcoal ageing.

2 different Manhattans were then made to both see and taste the difference between the one made using Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels Single Barrel. Being a Manhattan drinker, both = excellent! And one sip was definitely not enough!

The Jack Daniels Single Barrel was next on the agenda to be tasted. On the nose it gave off a subtle vanilla aroma with a slight oak lingering behind. The smooth vanilla extracts were released upon tasting which made it just that little bit easier to drink than its Old No.7 version.

The Gentleman Jack on the nose gave off a very strong vanilla aroma yet on the tongue it was very smooth and not as harsh as you may think after the initial nosing. It gives a gentle vanilla/toffee colour compared to a more Old No.7 style colour for the Single Barrel.

We also tried Woodford Reserve to have a comparison. On the nose it gave off a strong caramel scent with a smooth lingering vanilla aroma which carried on to the taste. However the caramel becomes more subtle in flavour resulting in a smooth lingering after-taste.

This was an excellent insight to American whiskey and really helped my understanding of the American side of a subject that I’ve not always fully understood. With this and my recent Dalmore and Glenfiddich Masterclasses (https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/dalmore-whisky-masterclass-review/ and https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/glenfiddich-whisky-masterclass-review/ ) I have been able to fully appreciate both the history, techniques used, taste and understand the differences in the whisk(e)y that is produced.

If you are close to any of the BBFB Training Shows, make sure you go along and check them out. It’s a great chance to learn and sample the brands that Bacardi Brown-Forman have got underneath them. Check out there website at http://www.pourfection.com/trainingteam

Also, check out my review of their Rum Roadshow at https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/bbfb-rum-roadshow/