The Balvenie Stories is Balvenie for a new generation. This new range is the first in what I anticipate will be a series of special releases driven by the stories that made them possible. Some are from experimentation. Others are from chance encounters. All three were made possible by the people that make The Balvenie what it is. As part of the marketing of these whiskies, the distillery is really driving the namesake of the range home with in-depth podcast episodes narrated by Global Brand Ambassador Gemma Patterson. She tells the story of each bottling by interviewing the people who made them happen. Despite being very different, all three Stories bottles are a natural progression of flavors enhancing a single distillery’s house style. All three are of natural color and the two higher strength bottles are non-chill filtered. Big pluses for me.
The Sweet Toast of American Oak
The first of the three 2019 Balvenie Stories releases is called “The Sweet Toast of American Oak” and is the brainchild of Apprentice Malt Master Kelsey McKechnie. As the story goes, she wanted to experiment further with the effect of new oak barrels from the famous Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky. These barrels were transported to The Balveine’s on-site cooperage and then given an extra long toasting. They were then used to finish 12 year old ex-bourbon cask matured Balvenie. This release is bottled at 43% ABV.
|Nose||Roasted honey almonds, Mandarin orange, vanilla, hints of heather, malty, walnuts.|
|Taste||Sweet oak, heavy citrus (orange, lime, grapefruit), vanilla, nutmeg, hint of caramel, grassy and very slightly earthy.|
|Finish||Lemon-lime citrus, pencil shavings, cereal, chocolate orange, oak throughout. Short to short-medium length.|
|Overall Thoughts||As expected, there’s lots of zestiness in this release. I love the extra citrus influence here as these notes fit The Balvenie’s house profile really well. In my opinion, good value for a 12 year limited release.|
The Week of Peat
The second release is called “The Week of Peat”. With the release of the “Peat Week” bottlings in 2017 and 2018, Balvenie drinkers are already fairly familiar with the one week out of the year when the Balvenie exclusively makes peated spirit. Due to the lighter profile of The Balvenie, they never heavily peat their whisky and this release is no exception. This whisky is accompanied by a the story of the first peat week in 2002 from Ian Millar, former Glenfiddich and Balvenie Distillery Manager and current Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich (and all around awesome guy). Of the three podcasts associated with these bottlings, I found this one to be the most interesting. It’s well worth a listen!
|Nose||Extremely floral, heathered peat, lemon zest, a good amount of vanilla.|
|Taste||Smokey Valencia orange, juicy, oak, honey, Granny Smith apples.|
|Finish||Damp cave, light smoke, vanilla, Sprite-style lemon lime sweetness, baking spice. A pretty long finish here.|
|Overall Thoughts||I think Peat Week 2002 and 2003 are a more complete representation of modern peated Balvenie but this is still an interesting pour.|
A Day of Dark Barley
The third release in the range is called “A Day of Dark Barley” and is the result of a mistaken roasted barley delivery in 1992. As the story goes, a large batch of dark roasted malted barley arrived at the distillery by mistake. Rather than try and figure out how to return it, they kept it and used it to make a unique Balvenie. Some whisky from this distillate was originally released in 2006 as the 14 year old Roasted Malt. The rest of the stocks continued to age for another 12 years before being released as “A Day of Dark Barley” for this range. Of the three whiskies in this range, I love the fact that this is the lightest in color. As they say: don’t judge a whisky by its color.
|Nose||It does not smell the way it looks. Stewed fruits, hint of prunes, ripe mulberries, raw honey, orange peel, vanilla in the back as well as some cinnamon.|
|Taste||Oily and chewy, lots of caramel/honey sweetness in front atop a layer of orchard fruit. Hints of chocolate, oak, cherry Jolly Rancher.|
|Finish||Drying, lots of orange, some nice oak, cane sugar, orange and vanilla is the last to fade. Good length.|
|Overall Thoughts||Reminds me a lot of the 25 Year Single Barrel. I do like the fact that the natural color proves that even “dark barley” doesn’t necessarily produce a dark spirit. That’s all up to the oak and this exclusively matured in ex-bourbon casks.|
All in all, the Balvenie Stories range is an interesting addition to the distillery’s portfolio. I think “The Sweet Toast of American Oak” exceeded my expectations and is a great value for a 12 year limited release. “The Week of Peat” was pretty good but I’m not a big peat guy and I think Peat Week 2002 from two years ago was a more complete peated whisky. As far as “A Day of Dark Barley Goes,” it reminds me A LOT of the Single Barrel 25 Year. There are some extra dark dried fruit notes in “Dark Barley” and I enjoyed the sample I tried, but it’s not enough for me to justify the super high price of a full bottle.
I hope this gives you some insight when you are browsing the shelves and see these bottles popping up over the summer. Thanks for reading!