Balvenie Distillery suffers a little in comparison with its more celebrated big sister Glenfiddich! Located near each other and owned by the same family, William Grant, the Balvenie Distillery is a little rough around the edges, lacking the sparkle of Glenfiddich. This actually adds to its charm and makes it seem more ‘real’.
With the success of his first distillery, William Grant bought the nearby New Balvenie Mansion. This was an 18th century mansion in 1892. Initially the basement of the castle was used as bonded store to mature whisky. The first floor became a malting floor and the other two floors above were used for storing grain. In the 1920s the distillery was rebuilt and renovated using the same stone blocks of the mansion.
The Balvenie is one of the few distilleries that still grows its own barley and still uses its own traditional floor maltings, among the last floor maltings in operation in mainland Scotland. Furthermore it belongs to the rare breed of distilleries that still employs coopers to tend the casks and a coppersmith to maintain the stills. The coopers tend the traditional oak casks that Balvenie uses for maturation in the cooperage
It is uncommon to find a distillery that still retains these skills in house in this day and age. Tradition has seen to it that successive generations have acquired the age old skill on the malting floor, in the tun room and the still house, in the cooperage and the warehouses. This is how Balvenie has succeeded in preserving the consistency and remarkably high quality of its whisky.
A visit to the Balvenie distillery will let you see the process from the steep tanks, through the labor intensive malt floors and into the malt kiln. You will be able to see the malted barley being dried over a fire of peat and anthracite. You can even go down to see the fire that takes two days to dry each batch of barley.
You then proceed to the mash house and the impressive nine stills. The four wash and five spirit copper stills are maintained by their own in house coppersmith. Here, over the two distillations, in slightly different stills, the alcohol level is raised. At the end of the second run, a clear spirit runs through the spirit safe and is transported for maturation.
The Balvenie range of whiskies includes Balvenie DoubleWood, a splendid example of the distiller’s art and craft. It is matured for twelve years in two casks. The cask where the whisky is first matured is a traditional oak cask. It is then transferred into a second cask, a sherry oak cask. The Balvenie Distillery believes this is what makes The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year old Scotch single malt so special.