|The Balvenie Triple Cask|
Balvenie’s ‘Whisky Master’, David Stewart, might be described as ‘The Grand Old Man’ of the Scotch whisky industry. He joined William Grant & Sons, the owner of Balvenie Distillery, in 1962, aged seventeen. At the dinner held to mark his 50th year with the company, Peter Gordon, Wm. Grant’s managing director, read the report to management after his interview was read out. It concluded simply: “He’ll do…” !
David is universally respected throughout the industry as an innovator. He was a pioneer of wood ‘finishing’ – re-racking mature whisky from one cask to another for its final months or years of maturation, to add an extra dimension to it.
The spirit matured in these three kinds of cask is then married in a large vat, called a ‘marrying tun’ for around six months, ‘so the whiskies can get to know one another’. This used to be common practice, but is less so today.
Examples of the three casks used for Triple Cask are available for sampling by ‘dipping dog’ (and purchase) at Balvenie Distillery.
“And what’s a dipping dog?”, you might well ask. It is simply a short section of copper pipe, sealed at one end (traditionally with a copper penny), and stoppered with a cork. In days gone by, distillery workers would slip their dogs through the bunghole of a cask, ‘liberate’ some whisky, stopper it and hang it on a piece of string inside their trousers.
But why is it called a ‘dog’? I learned this many years ago from an old boy at Balvenie Distillery. “Obvious”, he said: “Because it’s man’s best friend… Also it’s on a ‘lead’ and stays close beside you”.
Ian MacDonald, a cooper at the distillery, told me: “Once you’ve filled it and capped it off, it was down the trousers and off you go… I never did it, mind!” And Dennis McBain, Balvenie’s resident coppersmith, added: “The string was tied to your belt, so it would not slip down and reveal itself – which would mean immediate dismissal. It’s been a while since I made one … Honestly!”
Balvenie Triple Cask 12 Years Old
Autumn mellow, with scents of bruised apples, dried herbs, sherry and sandalwood. A dry nose, but a sweet and spicy taste and a warming finish.
Balvenie Triple Cask 16 Years Old
Polished wood and dried fruits; cherries and almonds, and some spice in the background. Smooth and voluptuous; sweet and spicy.
Balvenie Triple Cask 25 Years Old
Antique and wonderfully complex: pork scratchings become scented face cream, with fruit salad, sweet tobacco, dried herbs and moss. A thick texture and a sweet, lightly spicy,