The Balvenie has gone against convention with its latest release, reimagining a classic Speyside-style whisky using a heavily peated malt.
At a time when few Speyside producers were using peat in production, the liquid was laid down to mature at the distillery in Dufftown under malt master David Stewart and Ian Millar, former distillery manager and now prestige whiskies specialist at William Grant & Sons.
The result is The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Years (2002 Vintage) which is initially being released this month in only the UK, the USA, Denmark and Sweden.
Since the heavily peated malt was distilled and laid down, the distillery has dedicated one week each year, named Peat Week, to using only peated barley in its production to craft a different style of The Balvenie liquid with enhanced smoky notes.
The result of the initial experiment is described as a classic honeyed whisky enriched with a delicate, sweet and lingering peat smoke that unlocks flavours unexpected from a Speyside distillery.
The liquid was matured solely in American oak casks, giving the final spirit a velvety and round taste with the peat smoke balancing oaky vanilla and honey.
A permanent addition to the range, The Balvenie Peat Week is a single-vintage bottling, limited and rare by nature. It is non-chill-filtered and bottled at 48.3% ABV. In retail, it has a recommended price of £60.
David Stewart said: “Being able to experiment with different elements of whisky making and stock management is one of the most exciting and important parts of my job. The new Peated Week bottling is a result of our continued efforts to innovate and trial flavours not typically associated with The Balvenie.
“The expression is testament to the freedom we enjoy as a family company, and shows The Balvenie in an unexpected way, yet still remaining true to the distillery style our drinkers enjoy.”
The new release pays special homage to a time when peated whiskies were commonly produced by distilleries across Speyside, including The Balvenie, which used locally sourced peat throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s to dry barley processed at the distillery’s traditional malt floor, which is still in use today.
Ian Millar added: “When we first started the experiments, it was an incredibly exciting time as very few Speyside distilleries were using peated malt in production. Along with cask type, there’s nothing quite like peat to change the flavour profile of a whisky, so it was great to have the chance to undertake these experiments and lay the foundations for future peated malts.”
Alwynne Gwilt, brand ambassador for The Balvenie in the UK, said: “For anyone who thinks that scotch is a staid category, this new release from The Balvenie will make them reconsider.
“Behind the scenes at whisky distilleries like ours, experiments are always going on and, almost 15 years ago, we started exploring what it would be like to peat the malt that goes into our gorgeous honeyed liquid for one week each year.
“The result is something wonderful and will give The Balvenie lovers a chance to see this delicious whisky in a different light.”
The release follows the June release of The Balvenie Peated Triple Cask Aged 14 Years, exclusive to travel retail.
The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Years (2002 Vintage) tasting notes from The Balvenie
Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke with some lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey.
Taste: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey.
Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.