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Issue 72 - Signature craft

Whisky Magazine Issue 72
June 2008


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Signature craft

Ian Buxton meets the man behind Balvenie's style

With more than 45 years in the whisky industry, remarkably with just one company, you'd expect David Stewart to think carefully before putting his signature on a bottle.

And you'd be entitled to expect that bottle to be pretty special. Thankfully, though perhaps naturally for a man described by his colleagues as “modest and unassuming”, it isn't some ritzy £1,000 bottle destined for Moscow's nouveau riche.

In fact, David Stewart's Signature can be yours for a perfectly reasonable £30 or so, when it's released shortly in the UK. The full title tells all. The Balvenie Signature single malt is a “limited release” from William Grant & Sons' Speyside distillery that David, the company's master blender, has been patiently crafting for some little while.

This is a vatting of three cask types, all 12 years old: first fill bourbon barrels, refill casks and sherry butts which are then rested in Balvenie's Dufftown marrying vats for between three to four months.

So it's a topical reminder that most single malts, apart of course from single cask bottlings, are vatted (or blended) prior to bottling.

The balance of the cask selection has been judicious and subtle – there is just enough sherry wood in there to lend body and delightful fruit cake flavours, but not so much as to overwhelm the vanilla sweetness and spicy notes coming from the ex-bourbon barrels. It provides a contrast to the Balvenie DoubleWood, which is more direct and forceful in style (DoubleWood is a sherr...

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