Balvenie distillery shares the same (massive) site with Glenfiddich and Kininvie but makes its whisky in a very different manner to its two sisters.
Its floor maltings have been retained and although this only makes up a small percentage (up to 15%) of the total mash, it is believed that it helps contribute character to the new make – the small amount of peat which is burned might help. Given that Balvenie has only opened to visitors in recent times, it certainly wasn’t kept for cosmetic or touristic reasons.
It’s a large distillery with nine, fat, short-necked stills producing a new make character which is notably sweet and honeyed – completely different to both Glenfiddich and Kininvie. Interestingly, when William Grant built its Ailsa Bay malt distillery in Girvan, the still shape replicated that of Balvenie, but the new make is different again.
This was one of the first distilleries to introduce a ‘finished’ single malt with the launch in 1993 of Double Wood, which was first aged in ex-Bourbon casks before being given a short period of secondary maturation (aka finishing) in ex-Sherry.
This utilisation of different wood types runs through the Balvenie range with a new 17-year-old Double Wood recently joining Caribbean Cask (ex-rum) 14 year old, and the 21-year-old Port Wood as part of the core range. As well as single barrel releases and older age variants up to 50 years in the range, a cult small batch, Tun 1401, has also recently appeared, followed by Tun 1509.
Balvenie was built on a 12 acre site adjacent to Glenfiddich in 1892/3. Originally known as Glen Gordon it took the name of the huge (ruined) castle which was located next door. The ‘new’ castle, already derelict in 1893, was turned into maltings.
The distillery provided fillings, primarily for the Grant’s Standfast blend, until 1973 when the first official bottling was made. Its continued requirements as a contributor to blends initially restricted its growth as a stand-alone brand (although increasing its cult status). This was eased slightly with the opening of Kininvie in 1990, but it was only with the building of Ailsa Bay that greater stocks were finally made available. It is now one of the fastest-growing single malt brands in the world.