On the foot of the hills of Convals lies the Distillery of Glenfiddich. It produces Scotch Malt whisky. William J. Grant built it in 1892.
The Balvenie whiskies have a very definite distillery character. All the whiskies are sweet with honey and vanilla notes. This distillery character is then nicely combined with flavours of different casks. This marriage of fruity flavours with the honey and vanilla makes Balvenie a typical Speyside distillery. The core range is very large with the 12 years Double Wood as their leading whisky. The core range goes up to the 30 year-old. These whiskies become even better as the sweet and soft tones are complemented with oak and darker flavours like leather or cigars.There are only few independent bottlings of the Balvenie distillery. So there are only a handful of bottles on the market with whisky straight from the cask.
Over the last years the Monkey Shoulder blended whisky was developed. The Balvenie distillery partly supplies whisky for the Monkey Shoulder and serves as a sweet spice in the blend.
The production output at Balvenie is very high for a single malt distillery. The distillery has an annual output of 5.6 million litres of alcohol. This output is reached with five wash stills and six spirit stills. Also very interesting is the production depth at Balvenie. Balvenie has an own farm, malting floors, local spring, copper-smith, cooperage and all the usual distillery departments.
The malt is grown at the Balvenie Main. It is 1000 acres large and grows traditional Scottish barley.
Balvenie kept the traditional malting floors and is now one of the few distilleries where you can buy whisky that is made in the style of before the industrialisation of whisky.
The copper-smith keeps all the piping and the pot stills in good shape. Balvenie states that the shape of their stills is one of the most important factors in the creation of the distillery character.
The coopers at Balvenie are also very crucial to the typical flavour of Balvenie. They inspect, repair, rebuild, fill and seal casks all day. The great variation of casks at Balvenie makes this department very necessary to the distillery.
The five wash stills vary from 9,000 litres to about 13,000 Litres. Their shape is very round, and they are equipped with a reflux bowl. The pot still is also very tall, and the lyne arm is falling after the neck.
The spirit stills are a bit bigger and there are six of them. This means you can distil at a slow pace and separate the bad tastes in the alcohol better. The shape of the spirit still pot is tubular and above the intermediate piece sits another reflux bowl. This time the lyne arm is rising after the bend. All of this leads to a very good separation of the new make spirit. This is one reason why the Balvenie distillery is so smooth and sweet without the sharp and intense undertones.
The malting floors at Balvenie are open and working up to the present day. The malt at Balvenie shows almost no phenol content from drying over peat fire. Many of our photos from the malting floors were taken at Balvenie.
Most of the warehouses at Balvenie are kept traditionally flat and are made of old grey stone. This and the Scottish Highland climate let the whisky mature very slowly, making it very smooth. The choice of casks at the Balvenie warehouse is very diverse. There are a vast number of first and refill Bourbon casks. But there are also a lot of sherry casks and quite a number of exotic casks such as rum and wine casks.
The Balvenie distillery was built in 1892 by William J. Grant. The name Balvenie means 'village of luck'. The company is still in the hand of the William Grant & Sons Ltd. When the distillery was built Grant had to save a bit on the equipment. The stills were used stills from the Lagavulin distillery. Over the years the Balvenie whisky became very popular and the distillery increased the number of stills from two to four. In 1971 the whole distillery was renovated and the number of stills was increased to a total of nine stills. Due to the high production the malt cannot be fully supplied by the malting floors at the distillery. So the distillery has to buy malt from the big malting companies.
One interesting fact is that the Balvenie distillery didn't have a distillery bottling until 1973. Today it has a big range of standard distillery whiskies with a common design.
Balvenie is now open to the public. To get a tour you should pre-book online, as the tours are kept small and opening times at the distillery are pretty short. The tour is very interesting, because of all the production steps that are not common in the whisky industry anymore. You can also bottle your own whisky at the warehouse.