In a whisky industry first, top tea and coffee tasters Tim Clifton, Michael Bunston and Angus Kerr have put their palates to the test to select The Balvenie’s latest Vintage single malt. The whisky, distilled in 1972, will retail for £300 and just 744 bottles are available. Its maker, family-owned William Grant & Sons, is confident the whisky will attract interest from collectors and follow in the award winning footsteps of last year’s 1971 Vintage which received a gold medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition.
To uphold the award-winning reputation of The Balvenie Vintage Cask, Malt Master, David Stewart, sought expert help from highly regarded selectors and blenders, but not from the Scotch whisky industry. Instead, the Malt Master has enlisted representatives from the tea and coffee industries to put their extensive nosing and tasting experience to an alternative use.
Michael Bunston and Tim Clifton, Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the International Tea Committee and Angus Kerr, Chairman of the UK Coffee Trade Federation, swapped tea leaves and coffee beans for malt whisky casks to grind through the tough single malt tasting session held at The Balvenie Distillery in Dufftown. Tea and coffee blenders are renowned for their vigorous selection processes, so they were well prepared for the job.
Commenting on his honorary role, Tim Clifton said: “More than two centuries ago, both tea and Scotch, with their colonial reputations, were regarded as evil drinks. I hope that The Balvenie’s loyal drinkers agree that the two industries, together with our coffee-loving friends, have combined to produce a truly wicked drink in this 1972 vintage.”
In January, five casks, which were filled in late November 1972, were chosen. They yielded 744 bottles, with the ABV reduced to 47.3% prior to bottling, and are non-chill filtered. The Balvenie Vintage Cask 1972 RRP is £300 for a 70cl bottle, complete with oak presentation box, and is available from June 2006.
According to David Stewart “Our three guest tasters provided very apt descriptions on the nose and taste of each cask we examined, so agreeing on the final selections wasn’t too difficult. It just shows that although we are assessing very different drinks on a daily basis, we have great deal in common."
He added: “The trademark honeyed characteristics of the whisky are very prevalent, combined with a gentle nutty nose and creamy butterscotch flavour with a hint of spice. The finish is long, lingering and sweet, just what you’d expect from one of our vintage casks.”
The Balvenie Distillery, which is owned by independent family-owned distillers William Grant & Sons Ltd, is hoping the tea and coffee experts prove as successful as last year’s excisemen in selecting a winning dram. Their taste buds earned the Distillery a Best in Class Gold Medal at the 2005 International Wine & Spirit Competition for The Balvenie Vintage Cask 1971.
The Balvenie range of single malt Scotch whiskies includes The Balvenie DoubleWood® 12 Year Old, The Balvenie PortWood® 1991, The Balvenie Single Barrel® 15 Year Old, The Balvenie PortWood 21 Year Old, which was voted the world’s best single malt aged 12 years or older at the 2004 International Wines & Spirit Competition, and The Balvenie Thirty – a gold medal winner at the same competition in 2005.
Tasting Notes: Rich and golden in colour, The Balvenie Vintage Cask 1972 is beautifully rich with citrus fruitiness. Gentle nuttiness and spicy wood notes, silky smooth on the palate, it has creamy butterscotch flavours mingled with honeyed orange and delicate spiciness and a beautiful lingering sweet finish.