The Balvenie Embraces Sherry in Its Latest Stories Release

The Speyside distillery helped invent the idea of cask finishing

June 5, 2024 4:23 pm
The Balvenie A Revelation of Cask and Character hero
The Balvenie: A Revelation of Cask and Character is the latest in the Speyside distillery's Stories range.
The Balvenie

What we’re drinking: The Balvenie Stories: A Revelation of Cask and Character

Where it’s from: Based in Speyside, The Balvanie launched in 1892 and is one of three remaining family-owned whisky distilleries in Scotland. They pretty much do everything on-site, from growing their own barely to traditional floor maltings to crafting their own barrels, and they base their liquid around a concept of the “five rare crafts.”

Why we’re drinking this: We had a chance to try this recent release when we met up with The Balvenie’s new Malt Master, Kelsey McKechnie. A graduate of The University of West Scotland with a BSc in Biology and Biological Sciences, McKechnie started at the distillery a decade ago analyzing fermentation and distillation profiles. She eventually became an Apprentice Malt Master under David Stewart MBE (the world’s longest-serving Malt Master) before taking over the lead role in 2022. 

Current and former Malt Masters Kelsey McKechnie and David Steward of The Balvenie, back in 2018

You can credit McKechnie’s predecessor David Steward for pretty much introducing the idea of cask finishing to the world of Scotch, which he did in 1983 with Balvenie Classic, when he added an extra maturation of the distillery’s whisky into ex-sherry butts. “For us, it’s really important that we are using those different casks to accentuate different flavors in the spirit,” McKechnie says. 

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What I’ve always liked about The Balvenie is there seems to be a consistent flavor profile throughout their lineup, even with the use of different cask finishes or multiple casks. “We like to own every part of the process,” McKechnie says. “Because of that, we can push and pull all of these different flavors to accentuate or dial back different flavors.”

Let’s check out the new 19-year expression. 

How it tastes: One-hundred percent sherry cask-matured and coming in at 47.5% ABV, this one is very spice-forward with hints of leather, honey, toffee, raisin, cherry and cocoa. I’m not usually a fan of whiskies that spend their entire maturation in former sherry barrels, but this one maintains enough of the distillery’s character without coming off as a sherry bomb.

Fun fact: The Balvenie Stories: A Revelation of Cask and Character is the first release to be crafted solely by McKechnie. The goal of the series is to “bring to life the stories of the people and places behind the whisky,” and this release is a nod to the on-site coopers at The Balvenie (including Head Cooper Ian McDonald, who’s been with the brand for 50 years). 

Where to buy: The Balvenie Stories: A Revelation of Cask and Character is available now at an SRP of $503.99 in stores and online. 


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