Balvenie is a brand of Speyside single malt Scotch made at the Balvenie distillery. The distillery is named for the now ruined Balvenie castle, built in the 13th century by Alexander, the 2nd Earl of Buchan. In 1306, the castle was given by King Robert the Bruce to Sir James Douglas, whose family held it for the 1450's, when King James II annexed the castle and all of the property of the Douglas clan to the crown. He then gave the castle to his kinsman, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl, who owned the castle until it fell into disrepair in the 1720's.
The castle at Balvenie lent its name to about a thousand acres of farmland that became known as the Balvenie Mains, and stones from the ruined castle were eventually incorporated into the New House, which became the heart of the Balvenie distillery. William Grant bought New House in 1892, and spent 15 months repairing the old building. Production of whiskey began on May 1st, 1893, with the basement becoming a warehouse, the first floor handling the malting, and the second a loft to store local barley.
By the 1920's, the New House was levelled and a new set of buildings were erected to handle malting. Over the years, they've added some new stills (they're now at 9) and added some electric lights, but very little else has changed. Balvenie is one of the very few distilleries remaining to handle every step of the production of their Scotch. There are four men who turn the malting barley three times a day, seven days a week. They have their own coppersmith and cooper to repair the stills and barrels. Everything is done much in the way it was one hundred years ago.
Balvenie produces half a dozen different age statements in their core range, and a large assortment of different wood finishes as special releases. Some of the more commonly available Balvenie Scotches are:
Balvenie Signature is aged for 12 years, and is blended from whisky that has aged in used Bourbon barrels and sherry casks.
Balvenie Doublewood is aged for twelve years, and during its maturation is moved from used European oak barrels to used barrels that have previously held Sherry. It has a soft, slightly sherried nose and a pleasant roundness in the mouth. It tastes of dried fruits, honey, and Oloroso sherry, with a core of malty sweetness. Doublewood is bottled at 86 proof.
Balvenie 15 is aged for fifteen years in a single refill Bourbon barrel and bottled at 95.6 proof. It is yellow-gold in color, with aromas of heather honey, vanilla, and malt. The palate is soft and fairly rich, with delicate spice and licorice notes on the finish. As each barrel makes about 350 bottles, this is a bit more difficult to find.
Balvenie 21 Portwood is a selected blend of Balvenie that is further aged in casks that have held Port. It is non chill-filtered and bottled at 95.2 proof.
Balvenie also makes a 30 and a 40 year expression in very limited quantities.