Every now and again you look at things and smile to yourself.. This happened to me on my last visit to speyside. I had planned a trip up to the promised land, done the phone calls, just one left to do.. Balvenie, the phone rings, a polite lady answers.. ” good morning Balvenie distillery, how can I help you” er stutter, stutter ” can I please book a visit for 3 months time ” “what date would you like” ” first week in June please” ” sorry that week is fully booked” knees buckled, a lump emerged in the throat.. Pathetically I asked ” every day, both tours ” that dreaded word ” yes” what do I do here, well ok could I leave my details in case someone drops out… ” of course you may” details left, I had to tell the wife, I knew she would be devastated, ok she wouldn’t but I was.
Well the trip was here, still no balvenie but the week was full of great tours and a shopping list as long as my arm, the bank had been warned, it is Monday morning 4am and off we go, of course Auchentoshan was the first stop followed by Glengoyne, then off to Dalwhinnie, it is now 11.50 and the phone rings, I miss the call, no number o well, a couple of hours later, just approaching Dalwhinnie and the phone rings again.. ” good afternoon this is Balvenie distillery, is this Sorren ? “. ” er yes it is, I mean good afternoon ” ” we were just ringing to let you know there is room on the tour at 10 am in the morning if you are interested?” Silence.. ” are you serious” like this could be a prank, of course it was a serious phone call, but did I hear it right, ” a female laugh” ” yes i am serious” ” yes I will be there, 2 please, 10am in the morning” or something sounding like that.. The phone goes dead, the wife asks who was it ? “Balvenie, I’m going, I mean we are going to Balvenie in the morning, 10am” “can you be ready for 10am ? ” ” yes” ” great, looks like I better re organise tomorrow”
Tuesday 9.30. Sitting in the car park at Balvenie, just sitting… looking around… sitting… Time to go find the starting point, we walk to the office along with an older couple, almost as excited as me, as we walk in we are met by David Muir, hand shaken, coffee offered, ( impressed) we sit down and chat whisky and Balvenie, it is now 10 am time to start, first stop the malting floor, a great tradition and fantastic to see operating.
You instantly realise the scale of operations here, for some reason my thoughts were this is a smaller distillery, not in anyway is it small… Into the tun room, fantastic smells all around,
this tour is so informative, the information coming from David was never ending, then a visit to the cooperage, absolutely fantastic, we watched for about 10-15 mins, totally engorged in what was happening down below.
The moment had now come.. The warehouse, not any old warehouse though, the red doors were labelled Warehouse 24… The holy ground….
The doors opened and wow, dark and fusty, then you begin to see those wooden cask that are holding liquid gold,
as we walked in it was like walking back in time, how long had these casks been sitting here waiting for me to gaze down on them ? Over in one corner there was the Balvenie tun, used to marry that special liquid for the tun series.. I stood near a lovely old cask from 1974, drooling at what might be inside, then we were asked if anyone was a member of Warehouse 24, me, I am, then David announced that as members we could have a special dram, the cask I was hovering over was that dram, a 41yo, cask strength Balvenie, no I’m dreaming, really, yes, I even got the honours of using the dog to draw the whisky from its bed, ready for when we got back to the tasting room, if that was not enough we climbed some stairs to another area full of casks and 3 in particular, the bottle your own section, a sample was offered, the first a first fill 14yo bourbon cask ( sublime) the second a 14yo refill bourbon ( delicious) the third a 14yo first fill sherry cask ( awesome ) me I bought several bottles, when do you get the chance to buy Balvenie single casks at cask strength.. So back to the tasting room and a fantastic line up for us to try. David did treat us to some special drams, including the single barrel 25yo, the single barrel 12yo, 17 yo doublewood..
Then that 41yo, so very different to your normal Balvenie, smokey, but graceful and ever so smooth, I will remember this moment for a very long time.. An absolutely fantastic privilege to be able to look round this wonderful distillery, David is a fantastic guide, and the memories will never be forgotten.. Thanks to all involved at the Distillery.