Official launch, Sydney Australia
Attention Australian Balvenie fans – The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask has just been launched locally!
In true William Grant & Sons style, this was cause for celebration, so on a recent Monday evening, celebrate we did. Where should The Balvenie hold an event for the release of a rum-finished whisky? A specialist rum bar of course, so it was off to Sydney’s The Cuban Place/Parke Davis.
Guests approaching the venue knew they were in the right spot when they spotted this hand-crafted Balvenie sign at the entrance and were greeted by the sound of authentic rasta-sounding steel kettle- drums.
Descending the half dozen stairs into the swanky sub-ground Parke Davis, we were greeted by our ever consummate host – The Balvenie’s Sydney brand ambassador – Mr James Buntin.
James’ partner in crime for the evening would be Melbourne-based Dick Blanchard, who I’d had the pleasure of meeting a few day’s prior at the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championships (post to follow shortly).
It should be said that Dick has a knack for crafting some rather special whisky-based cocktails and had put together this Balvenie-inspired duo to get the evening started.
A handful of friendly hellos were exchanged before a handful of Balvenie was received, your choice of a cocktail or perhaps something from The Balvenie’s core range? The 12 or 17 year old double wood, the all new 14 year old Caribbean Cask or perhaps a healthy dram of the luscious 21 year old Port Wood (if you happened to bump into the right person!) They were all on offer and the crowd made a good dent in their stocks!
I started with a Balvenie-inspired Dark & Stormy and Parke Davis’ bartenders made short work of mixing a couple down.
Oh yeah, they’re also pretty efficient at pouring a mean Beachcomber or two…
Balvenie – a story of craftsmanship
The Balvenie don’t just place pride in their liquid, but also in the craftsmanship that brings it to life. From the partial onsite maltings, to the in-house cooperage that prepares their barrels, they take a very hands-on approach to whisky making. As such, they also display an appreciation for those who exude the same passion in their own craft.
To really highlight that connection, The Balvenie had invited along Charles Moller to present a short, but genuinely fascinating, intro into the world of crafting steel kettle-drums. It’s not the first time The Balvenie has been involved with local artisans either, setting up a craft bar in Melbourne’s famous laneways back in November 2013.
Release the rum-finish
We were here for a particular reason though and that was to see the official release of this fine dram into the local Australian market.
So with a short enthusiastic toast from the captivating Mr B. we welcomed The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask to Australia.
So what’s it like?
In short, pretty damn enjoyable. So enjoyable in fact that I totally forgot to jot down any tasting notes on the night.. bugger.. The geniuses at Balvenie obviously figured as much and had the forethought to but together these goodie bags, complete with a crafty hand-labeled sample.
After mulling this one over for a while, I got sweet syrupy malt on nose, layered with brown sugar. Whether the label is prompting me to look for it, I’m not sure, but I also get some golden rum notes too. Searching a touch longer, it’s not hard to find the classic honeyed-apple Balvenie notes buried underneath. A very round and perfectly approachable nose.
Fairly thin on the palate and immediately sweet, yet drying at the same time. Oaky wood spice develops quickly along with bitter dark chocolate and a hint of orange pith. These tart drying notes are nicely balanced by a rounded sweetness, which almost comes across as confectionary like at some points (think lolly bananas and fresh marshmallows). Add to that some hints of vanilla and a noticeable rum note, both of which come out toward the back of the palate and remain on the finish which turns oaky and drying once more.
I think the main take away from this is to not expect a rum flavoured whisky. It’s not a flavouring (thank goodness for that) – it’s a finish – one which builds on the underlying approachable character of Balvenie, creating something a bit more special.
Having also tried the 14 year old Cuban Cask, I admit that I did notice a difference between the two and the Caribbean Cask is certainly my pick of the duo.
If you liked the look of this event, you too can get involved!
Whilst some distilleries have mailing lists, or token membership groups, The Balvenie’s Warehouse 24 program genuinely makes an effort to connect with their fans the world over. Regular competitions are mostly open to international entrants and special events are held in major cities everywhere.
In fact, invites to the Caribbean Cask launch were extended to Australian Warehouse 24 members – just for being members! Whether you’re reading this in Australia or abroad, it’s worth checking out.
Where, when and how much?
The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask is bottled at 43% ABV will be available in Australia from the finest liquor retailers from August at a recommended price of AU$115.
Big thanks to The Balvenie and William Grant & Sons for hosting such an enjoyable evening. And to James, farewell from your Australian fans, thanks for all the laughs and we hope you have a blast in the UK.