Our Rare Crafts
We make whisky the way we always have, leveraging all the skill and experience of our craftsmen who share an intimate understanding with their base material and have a desire to make the very best whisky possible. It is the combination of expertise, skill and ambition that gives The Balvenie its unique character.
Allow us to demonstrate.The rare crafts of malt whisky
Our Rare Craft No. 1
Our Home-grown Barley
THE BALVENIE is the only single malt Scotch whisky distillery that still grows and malts its own barley.
Each year we sow barley on our 1,000 acre farm, Balvenie Mains, just as we always have.The only concession we make to the 21st century is the use of a combine harvester when the crop is ripe for harvesting. Apart from that, the barley is grown the same way as it was in the beginning.
Our Rare Craft No. 2
Our Malting Floor
THE BALVENIE is the only distillery to maintain and operate a working floor maltings in the Scottish Highlands. After steeping the grain in spring water sourced from the hills above the distillery, we spread the grains across our malting floor.
The barley warms up as it starts to germinate and needs to do so evenly. Our four malt men turn it up to four times a day until it’s ready for the kiln. Here it is dried using anthracite and a carefully judged amount of peat, which adds further complexity to our whisky.
Our Rare Craft No. 3
Of all the things that affect the taste of The Balvenie, the shape and size of the stills are two of the most important. Employing our own coppersmith means that these crucial (and rather large) craftsman’s tools are kept in peak condition.
Thanks to our coppersmith we don’t do it all that often. Each time we do, he cuts an armful of juniper branches and makes sure they’re the first thing boiled inside, in a process known as ‘sweetening the still’. How much juniper, and for how long? A good handful, and a good long while. As our coppersmith says, “there’s nae science to it” - but he’s convinced that if one day (heaven forbid) someone should forget a different spirit would emerge from the cask.
Our Rare Craft No. 4
The casks are so important to the taste of The Balvenie that we entrust their preparation and maintenance only to our on-site team of coopers.
Some casks need to be ‘toasted’, just enough to open the pores but not enough to burn too deep. It’s quite a skill, but then our coopers repair, rebuild, fill and seal casks all day, all year. An apprenticeship takes four of those years, but the learning doesn’t stop there: it takes more years of experience to keep everything ‘wind and watertight’ every time.
Our Rare Craft No. 5
Our Malt Master
How do we ever decide which casks will be used to craft The Balvenie DoubleWood and which allowed to slumber on for two further decades? Which will go on to sleep in oaken butts from the bodegas, rich in Oloroso sherry? Which in port pipes? That’s the job of our Malt Master, David Stewart.
His unmatched expertise ensures that each expression in our range makes the absolute best of the complex alchemy of spirit, wood and time. For all the skill required to ensure consistency in The Balvenie, our Malt Master looks forward to the future as much as to tradition: it’s he who pioneers new ways of bringing out the mysteries that hide within each drop. After 50 years, to David it’s second nature.