Charles Maclean on the two bottlings of Balvenie 50 years Old:
The first bottling of Balvenie Fifty (a mere 88 bottles, originally priced at £20,000) was drawn from a European oak ex-sherry hogshead – an unusual cask, since most European oak is raised into butts. At the time David remarked: “Cask 5576 and I have shared the last five decades together at The Balvenie Distillery and as single malt making is as much art and alchemy as precise science, the interaction between wood and maturing whisky means each cask will produce something entirely unique… it’great delight to discover how, after half a century this unique cask has turned out a truly special single malt.” Although now partly retired, David has gone on to investigate more of the distillery’s rare old casks and has chosen two which have produced remarkably different whiskies. He says of them: “Although beginning the same way and being distilled on the same day, cask number 4567, has a deep reddish hue and a beautifully full taste characterised by dark fruits and spice – typical of maturation in a European oak cask.” “The 50 Year Old from cask number 4570 is different, with a rich golden hue and an elegant oak and vanilla sweetness. Both are among the most complex, sophisticated and fine whiskies ever to be released from Warehouse 24, the home of our oldest and rarest whiskies.” I concur with what he says (see my tasting notes). These are among the most unusual whiskies I have ever tasted! The two expressions are bottled at cask strength (45.4% and 45.9% respectively), without chill-filtration. Both have been hand-filled at The Balvenie Distillery into hand-blown glass bottles, and have yielded just 131 bottles of cask 4567 and 128 bottles of cask 4570. They are presented in wooden cases consisting of 49 layers of wood and a closing layer of brass, handmade by Scottish craftsman, Sam Chinnery. Like the whiskies themselves, one box is darker than the other!