This Wednesday, the burst of pre-Christmas whisky releases got a whole lot more interesting, with the launch of The Balvenie Forty, held at London's V+A Museum in Kensington.
The venue had been chosen rather poignantly, in that its current star attraction, 'The Power Of Making' is an eclectic collection of exhibits from incredibly talented craftsmen and women around the world. The Balvenie have of late highlighted the link between classic crafts and the craftsmanship of their own whisky, by developing the Masters Of Craft Awards; celebrating craftspeople as diverse as violin makers, glassblowers and shoemakers. And with the addition of the British Craft Council's 40th Anniversary, the night was one big mashup of serious hand-crafted talent.
The Balvenie's Dr Andrew Forrester led the assembled guests through a nosing and tasting of the brand new whisky, which is put together using the process of what he described as 'micro-vatting'. The Balvenie Forty brings together a proportion of 6 different casks; 3 sherry butts and 3 refill hogsheads, which is, (like the Tun 1401) married for a short time in one of the distillery's vats. The whisky is presented in a hand-crafted wooden box, built by Scottish craftsman Sam Chinnery. Each bottle is also engraved by Sam's father.
As we like to bang on about, it is of course the liquid inside that counts, but the whole package does look pretty exquisite.
So with a dram in hand, we venture into the craftsmanship of Malt Master David Stewart...
The Balvenie - Forty - Batch 2 - 48.5% - 150 bottles
Nose: Immediate notes of victoria sponge cake, followed by dried cherries, coconut and floral wax. It is quite light and open for a 40yo whisky, with toffee apple notes developing as the dram develops.
Palate: Big hit of vanilla fudge, malted milk biscuits, some more perfumed notes (nectarine and peach) soft fruit crumble and prominent bourbon notes. Given time, a distinctly dark rich honey flavour develops, alongside tart fresh lemon juice and cherry sherbet.
Finish: Surprisingly dry, with some lingering spiced fruit notes and more cherry.
Overall: Unmistakably The Balvenie, this dram adds to the vast range of cracking whiskies expertly bought to life by David Stewart and his team. Whilst at a push, we would say the recent Tun 1401 release tips the scales in terms of excellence, this isn't far behind. At £2,500, it isn't a cheap whisky, but then again, when did you last see a cheap Stradivarius, Purdey shotgun or pair of John Lobb shoes?