The Balvanie DCS Compendium Chapter #1 – tasting with David Stewart , Balvenie Malt Master

“I have no reservations in saying that I have the best job in the world. There are only a handful of others in the industry doing the kind of job that I do and to hold this unique position makes me feel very proud.

So selecting the CASKS for this COMPENDIUM was never really work. I had a good idea which ones were destined to be part of this collection, even if it took some work and time to track them down. I had to LEAF THROUGH LEDGERS, search computer records, and had to hop, quite literally, barrel over barrel to seek them out in the various warehouses.

But not unlike the rest of the past 53 YEARS, I have loved every minute of it.”

— David  C. S , MBE , Balvenie Malt Master

David Stewart  has been working at the Balvenie for the last 53 years!, that’s an epic period, and to commemorate that and celebrate his amazing contribution to the Balvenie brand , for having served as their Malt Master for so long, having such a great influence on the Balvenie line for 5 decades, they have decided to bottle a special range of 25 whiskies over a period of  5 years. Each of the 5 chapters features 5 bottles, and each chapter has a theme that focuses on a different aspect of Balvenie’s whisky. Chapter One’s theme is ‘Distillery Style’, and looks at the sweet, honeyed style that can be found in Balvenie whiskies. David has hand picked (this time for real) each and every cask from this range , and according to him each and every cask he chose is showcasing the Balvenie style, each a bit different of course. If you’re very rich, you can buy the set for £23,333 (Master of Malt), and if you’re quite rich but not willing to spend that amount on the 5 bottles, they are also available separately (but that won’y be cheap too.)

I was very excited to have heard that This whisky legend is coming over to Israel bringing over a set of the DCS compendium batch #1, to a customer who has ordered a set (lucky bastard!), and will be also hosting a tasting of the DCS #1 range in Tel Aviv. I was also kindly invited to the tasting courtesy of Hakerem (which is the official importer of Balvenie to Israel) , a one off event, that surely will be remembered for some time.

I arrived early that day, and had a chance to have a wee chat with David , who’s a really nice man, humble, and very passionate about whisky, It was quite a cosy room with not that many people, so great opportunity to talk whisky, especially about this set, which clearly David is very proud of. We first had a few drams to ‘warm up the engines’,  as they say, the lovely PortWood 21 year old which served as a nice aperitif, then we sat down, and let David go over the entire range, with some commentary, and anecdotes he shared from his experience making whisky at the distillery.

We started tasting the expressions from the youngest, to the oldest, starting with the 9 Year Old 2005 (cask 6587) , and finishing with the epic 46 Year Old 1968 (cask 7293) , following are my tasting notes, I’ve not had a lot of time to nose and taste each, so take that with a grain of salt:

Balvenie 9 Year Old 2005 (cask 6587) – 57.5% 

Filling Date: 6th May 2005

Bottling Date: 23rd March 2015

Nose: Quite  fresh, with Orange peel, vanilla, and barley, honeyed and juicy, with wood spices and clove. Quite rich on the nose.

Palate: Malty and fruity, with more vanilla, and orchard fruit, golden syrup, honey a touch of pepper, and citrus peel.

Finish: Malt, fruit and more honey, Medium.

A rather nice young Balvenie, full of ex-bourbon influence, vibrant, and lievly at the high ABV. Not the best Balvenie I’ve ever  had but a lovely start!

Balvenie 17 Year Old 1997 (cask 5365) – 60.7%

Filling Date: 9th June 1997

Bottling Date: 23rd March 2015

Nose: This is richer than the 9 year old, more on the honey and butterscotch , without that much citrus peel, there’s also a hint of cinnamon , fudge and malt, with a nice touch of vanilla to balance it all.

Palate: Butterscotch and toffee, with vanilla, rum filled chocolate, and spice, a nice touch of toasted oak too.

Finish: Sweet caramel, honey and wood spices.

A nice whisky indeed, if you have a sweet tooth, this one’s up your alley.

Balvenie 30 Year Old 1985 (cask 612) – 54.1%

Filling Date: 12th February 1985

Bottling Date: 23rd March 2015

Nose: I’ve had the 30 year old Balvenie a few times before, but this is slightly different : there’s a nice woody touch, and more honeyed and oaky goodness, with soft wood spices, citrus peel, candied orange and some old leather too.

Palate:More on the candied orange theme, with honey, lovely wood spices (cardamom, cinnamon and clove) as well as some rum n’ rains  touches.  Full bodied.

Finish: Lovely wood spices, long and elegant with citrus.

Balvenie 37 Year Old 1978 (cask 2708) – 50.2%

Filling Date: 11th March 1978

Bottling Date: 23rd March 2015

Nose:  Oh yea. This is what I’ve been waiting for… Extremely fragrant with old wood, leather and lacquer, varnish, and rich malty goodness. More layers of toffee, fudge and vanilla, all engulfed by that fascinating oaky aroma, Gentelman’s club and leather sofas, with soft wood spices. Stunningly good.

Palate: Rich and think syrup, butterscotch, and toffee, creamy vanilla and more of the brilliant old oak, wood spices (cinnamon, clove) rich and Hedonistic.

Finish: Very long, creamy and sweet, with 

This is superb stuff, really One of the best whiskies I’ve had recently. It’s all I expected from an old Balvenie. Balanced as well.

Balvenie 46 Year Old 1968 (cask 7293) – 45.9% 

Filling Date: 11th June 1968

Bottling Date: 26rd March 2015

Nose:  Much deeper and thicker than the 1978, it’s almost like a whisky concentrate. Lots of brown sugar. vanilla toffee candied orange , wood spices, and even an old Rum like note, heavy on the wood, with Tons of wood, really a lot, it’s a bit over the top with wood If i might say (and I am a sucker for good old wood).

Palate:  It’s like a thick  woody syrup, old rum , raisin, and lots of Demerara sugar, honey and some vanilla. It’s quite majestic, and mouth coating, but feels a tad over the top, unless you’er a die hard wood lover. some Wax, maraschino cherries, and spicy pepper. 

Finish:  Lounge, lingering on oak , vanilla, and black cherries. 

A truly Epic, dram, but after the perfect 1978, this feels a bit over the top, with the wood overshadowing the rest. I would have loved a bottle of this, though, don’t get me wrong. Classic stuff.

What a wonderful evening it was, utterly epic stuff, and a once in a lifetime opportunity of tasting these whiskies with David Stewart, and of all places in Tel Aviv.

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