Friday, October 03, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #313

The Balvenie 17yo Rum Cask
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
43% abv



The creative baby of the folks at Balvenie, the 17 yo expression has seen incarnations as Islay Cask, New Wood, New Oak, Sherry Oak, and now the 17yo Rum Cask.
This year The Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart and his 9-year apprentice Brian Kinsman have gone for a Jamaican Rum Cask finished Balvenie to be their 17yo release.

Folks in the USA will notice that the Balvenie Rum Cask 17yo is about 45 bucks more expensive than its predecessor, the 17yo Sherry Cask (tasted on Malt Mission #312). This has spawned a bit of a discussion on John Hansell's WHAT DOES JOHN KNOW regarding price increases across the Scotch whisky world. I have not yet weighed in on the issue on John's site, but I will add my two cents now.

All of the top 10 single malt distilleries in the world are working at full capacity for the first time since the 1970s if ever. The technical advances and increases in labour hours have therefore increased and if we want, say, Dalmore 15yo in 15 years we have to help pay for that investment today, with the current prices of grain, energy, manpower, etc.

When every bottle a distiller can produce can be sold, the demand exceeds the supply. This seems terribly obvious, but we who have increased interest, passion and SALES of Scotch whisky must recognise that it is a finite product. Scottish distilleries are not enormous operations and that is why we love them. The time and patience that it takes to make, say, a BenRiach 20yo is what has so charmed us about the world of malt whisky. And yes, it makes us feel good and tastes great but if we were to put a price tag on time we would find that we have been paying far too little for far too long. When a Patron Silver (completely unaged tequila) can be sold for $40 and an Aberlour that has matured for 12 years and then gets a second maturation in a sherry cask can be sold for $41, something ain't adding up and we'd be idiots to think that this could last forever.

The instability of the American dollar demands that if a whisky company remains determined to keep the USA as a priority market then prices must be adjusted accordingly as the industry losses last year based on currency alone were VERY significant.

And finally, just look around; movies, bread, rent, WhiskyFEST tickets, etc. have ALL seen increases of well over 100%. Over the past ten years, the price of new Scotch whisky has NOT gone up at the same rate as this wider trend while resale and collector sales of whiskies have seen incredible increases. The eBAy phenomenon has definitely made distillers ask "if PC5 can be sold one month after we released it for 60% more on the auction market, why the hell didn't we charge that from the beginning?" A good, and fair, if annoying, question. (Die pirates, DIE!)
The market can certianly bear it and we, as whisky lovers, must support it for the tens of thousands who work in the industry and for our 30th wedding anniversaries where we want to be able to have the best whisky bar the world has ever seen.

Enough for today. On to the whisky at hand. Have your say at John's excellent site or leave me a comment.

DISCLAIMER: Please let it be known that I currently work for William Grant and Sons, the family-owned Scottish distilling company that owns The Balvenie distillery. If you choose to take my tasting notes as bullshit and Dr. Whisky has not, after 311 Malt Missions, earned your trust as a source of honest presentations of whiskies good and less good, then so be it. But I do vow to maintain objectivity and am under no constraints from my current employers with regards to how to present their whiskies. As a result are the listed impressions are my own, as always. In light of my editorialising above, I should also add that nothing I say reflects the opinion WGS and those opinions expressed are the sole expression of one SS, Dr. Whisky.


Multi-layered with sweet themes of fruit and spice. Candied and inviting with banana chips, dates, and anise flavoured liqueur. Loads of brown sugar sweetness with grapes and hazelnuts. Toffeed, some tamarind and synthetic orange, growing gently minty with time.

Coconut and creme with sweet oaky grip. Continues with berry fruits and spices (fennel, mint, cloves) with a luscious vanilla backbone of American oak influence. Sweet, lengthy finish with soft impressions of stewed fruits.


A luscious and sweet dram that, naturally, will not appeal to everyone. All the complexity comes in the key of sweet: peaches and nectaries, candies, apples, honey, syrup, brown sugar, rum, berries, grapes (perfect Rosh Hashana whisky?) but remains incredibly drinkable and neither cloying nor saccrine-sweet due to the gentle but permeating oaky core of this spirit. To a sweet new year!

Malt Mission #311
Malt Mission #312
Malt Mission #314
Malt Mission #315

Malt Mission HOME

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting statement about the concerning the pricing of Whisky.

I noticed about a year ago that Whisky here in the Netherlands didn't increase as much in price as most other products. For example, Talisker 10Y (my dad's favorite whisky, so I always knew it's pricing) was sold for around Fl 70,- (€ 31,-) in 2000. The same bottle now goes for around € 35,-. And that is 8 years later! Same goes for the 'cheap' blends.
I assumed this was because of the increasing production of Whisky as result of the increasing demand. After all, a decent liquor-store in 2000 held 4 or 5 shelves of whisky. Today the same store has 10-15 shelves for whiskeys. Something is definitely changing.

On another note: congratulations on your post at Grant's. I believe you are there in good company (David Stewart!).

Most readers, like myself, will take your judgment as a personal view. However your ability to name and describe the tasting makes this Blog. I do occasionally check you blog before I buy. Not to see if you are personally blown away by the whisky I have in mind, but to read the tasting notes.

Hopefully your employment at Grant's will open even more doors (and bottles) for you to share with us.