Last month The Balvenie distillery unveiled French Oak 16 Year Old, following its official launch on 21st March. This is a new cask finished whisky that now forms part of the Flavours of The Balvenie range and is in fact the first time in the distillery’s 129-year history that The Balvenie has used French Oak casks.
This new expression embodies the Speyside distillery’s signature honeyed character, along with a unique twist gathered from The Balvenie’s first use of French Oak casks and explores Pineau from the French Charentes vineyards which was inspired by the flavours and memories from The Balvenie team’s visit to Europe’s wine making regions.
Pineau des Charentes is a fortified wine, a vin de liqueur, made from fresh, unfermented grape juice to which a Cognac eau-de-vie is added and then matured. This rich fruity wine is steeped in tradition that is seldom found outside the region. It is matured for 16 years in traditional American Oak whisky barrels to develop the distillery’s distinct notes of warm honey. It is then finished in Pineau French Oak casks which bring to life the velvety sweetness with notes of grapefruit, geranium, glazed fruit and ginger.
Anna Austin, who is the wood buyer at William Grant & Sons, commented:
“Our casks have been used to season Red Pineau des Charantes, and all have a variety of different histories. The complexity of their journey to The Balvenie is what brings the depth of flavour to our whisky. By working closely with specialist wine cask suppliers who source the casks from some very special French wineries, we know we can deliver on the highest quality we strive for in our craft.”
The Balvenie’s French Oak 16 Year Old joins two new variants of cask finished whiskies, namely the Madeira Cask 15 Year Old and PX Sherry Cask 18 Year Old. These sit alongside its core range of established cask finished whiskies that include DoubleWood 12 Year Old, Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old and PortWood 21 Year Old, all of which form The Flavours of The Balvenie range, a series of light, lively and characterful whiskies with a signature honeyed core.
This new expression from the distillery has beautifully balanced light floral notes from lotus and geranium flowers with hints of fresh meadow grass and peeled apple skin. It has an energising zing that comes from tangy lemon rind and grapefruit along with the delicate subtle sweetness of glazed fruits and spice from root ginger and its finish is refreshingly concise.
Alwynne Gwilt, The Balvenie Brand Ambassador in the UK, added:
“With the release of our new French Oak 16 Year Old, we are exploring yet another world of flavour through the incredible cask finishing process which our malt master of nearly 60 years, David C. Stewart MBE, pioneered decades ago. It’s incredible to watch the flavours unfurl in a new way with the addition of these Pineau de Charantes casks and showcases that the skill it takes to continue innovating is deep within our ethos of staying true to being a maker at heart.”
The Balvenie French Oak 16 Year Old retails for £123.00 (70cl), ABV: 46.9%, and is available to buy from Clink* as well as selected retailers, including Master of Malt and The Whisky Shop.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Images courtesy of The Balvenie