The Balvenie Unveils The Final Chapter of the DCS Compendium
Today, The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky unveils the final chapter in The Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter Five, titled ‘Malt Master’s Indulgence.’ The eagerly anticipated release is the last of the coveted Compendium series and is comprised of five unique and rare vintages carefully selected by Malt Master David C. Stewart MBE for their significance to his career.
As one of the whisky industry’s longest-serving Malt Masters, with just over 57 years’ experience, David’s selection of liquids for Chapter Five is a nod to his greatest indulgence — having the freedom to earmark casks simply because they have the potential to be spectacular, holding on to them, and watching them mature into beautiful liquid.
Without David’s enduring determination, patience and skill, these liquids would have never seen the light of day, and each expression in this final chapter represents this unbridled experimentation.
Aged between 16 and 56 years, the five rare liquids include the oldest ever whisky to be released by The Balvenie — a fragrant and sweet 1962 vintage (aged 56 years), taken from a European oak Oloroso sherry hogshead, that commemorates David’s very first year at the distillery and the starting point of his life-changing relationship with The Balvenie.
A luscious 1974 vintage with malty notes of honey and orange peel celebrates the year of his appointment as Malt Master, while a 1983 vintage with hints of vanilla and butterscotch flavors, marks the start of his experimentation with maturation — a pivotal moment in his whisky odyssey.
A vibrant 2001 vintage European oak Fino sherry butt, that puts forth gorgeous orchard fruit notes with oaky spiciness, is a testament to the freedom he has been entrusted with throughout his career and the unusual liquids this liberty has unlocked.
Finally, a 2002 vintage first-fill American oak bourbon barrel, offering a combination of smokiness, sweetness and spiciness, signifies his involvement in the reintroduction of The Week of Peat at the distillery after a fifty-year hiatus.
“It takes a good deal of time to understand how each cask differs and how whisky maturation is affected by various wood types,” says Stewart. “You need confidence to select casks and know which are likely to achieve greatness. Working for a family company, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to make stock decisions based on my preference and vision, with the free rein to pick casks and hold on to whisky, not always knowing what I’m going to do with it, for no other reason than thinking one day it will be extraordinary. For me, this is indulgence in its truest form.”
David was only 17 when he began working as a stock clerk at The Balvenie distillery in 1962. It was in this modest role that he learned some of the most important skills of a successful Malt Master: how cask inventory works, how to manage stock from year to year, understanding more and more how each cask can be unique in its own way.
After gaining this valuable knowledge, David started in the distillery, became enthralled by the processes of whisky production, mastered the skill of nosing, and in 1974 became The Balvenie Malt Master. Now he mentors Apprentice Malt Master, Kelsey McKechnie, passing on his knowledge to the next generation.
The unveiling of Chapter Five follows the annual release of four other chapters since October 2015: ‘Distillery Style’, ‘The Influence of Oak’, ‘Secrets of the Stock Model’ and ‘Expecting the Unexpected.’ The full collection is comprised of 25 outstandingly rare single cask single malts, representing David’s lifetime of skill and knowledge in liquid form.
William Grant & Sons Chief Executive, Simon Hunt, says: “David’s contribution to The Balvenie’s craft is simply immeasurable, which is why it is fitting that the last chapter of the Compendium should celebrate his 57-year journey with us and some of his most pivotal moments on the path to becoming the industry’s longest serving Malt Master. David’s inimitable skill and vision has been instrumental in producing some of the finest and most unusual whisky to ever come out of our distillery — and the impact of his pursuit of excellence and desire for experimentation has helped shape the whole whisky world for the better. It has been a true pleasure to afford such a talented individual with the freedom necessary for exceptional work.”
As with past Chapters in The Balvenie DCS Compendium, Chapter Five is presented in a handcrafted frame, produced by Scottish craftsman Sam Chinnery. Chapter Five has been crafted from European oak, which has been fumed to create a beautifully rich and dark wood, and each set has an individual number engraved on the frame, showing it is one of just 50 sets available worldwide.
Each set is accompanied by The Balvenie DCS Compendium book, written by former Balvenie Global Ambassador Dr. Samuel J. Simmons. The book, signed by David, features rare archive imagery from The Balvenie distillery, along with information on each of the five DCS Compendium chapters, which documents the thought process taken by David in curating the compendium.
The Balvenie DCS Compendium Chapter Five will be available for SRP $80,000.