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Balvenie unveils final chapter in Compendium series

Speyside distillery The Balvenie has released the fifth and final instalment in its DCS Compendium range, including the brand’s oldest whisky to date.

The Malt Master’s Indulgence range features five rare whiskies aged between 16 and 56 years

The Malt Master’s Indulgence is the concluding chapter in The Balvenie DCS Compendium, which first launched in October 2015 in celebration of the industry’s longest-serving malt master, David Stewart MBE. Each expression in the range was selected by Stewart.

“It takes a good deal of time to understand how each cask differs and how whisky maturation is affected by various wood types,” said 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.”

The Malt Master’s Indulgence range features five rare whiskies aged between 16 and 56 years, including the brand’s oldest bottling – a “fragrant and sweet” 1962 whisky.

The 56-year-old expression (42.1% ABV) was taken from a European oak oloroso Sherry hogshead to commemorate Stewart’s first year at the distillery. It comes with a price tag of £32,000 (US$41,270).

The range also celebrates the year Stewart was appointed to malt master with a 1974 vintage (51.3% ABV) with “malty notes of honey and orange peel”, priced at £17,000 (US$22,000).

While a 1983 expression (42% ABV) containing hints of vanilla and butterscotch marks Stewart’s move into experimentation with maturation. The 35-year-old bottling can be purchased for £3,500 (US$4,500).

The “vibrant” 2001 whisky (42.1% ABV) aged for 17 years in a European oak fino Sherry butt contains “orchard fruit notes with oak spiciness”. It is priced at £800 (US$1,000).

The series is completed with a 16-year-old matured in a first-fill American oak Bourbon barrel. It combines “smokiness, sweetness and spiciness” to represent Stewart’s involvement in the restoration of The Week of Peat at The Balvenie after a fifty-year hiatus. The 53.9% ABV whisky has an RRP of £700 (US$903).

‘Desire for experimentation’

“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,” said Simon Hunt, chief executive of William Grant & Sons, which owns The Balvenie.

“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.”

The range follows the brand’s first four DCS Compendium chapters, Distillery Style in 2015The Influence of Oak in 2016The Secrets of the Stock Model in 2017 and Expect the Unexpected in 2018. The full collection comprises of 25 single cask single malt whiskies.

Each set is accompanied by The Balvenie DCS Compendium book, written by Dr Samuel J Simmons, former Balvenie global ambassador. Signed by Stewart, the book features rare archive imagery of the distillery and information on each chapter in the DCS Compendium range.

The final chapter comes in a handcrafted frame made from European oak. Individual bottles from the set will also be available in a single presentation frame.

There are just 50 sets available worldwide, priced at £62,000 (US$81,000) and available from independent speciality retailers and select GSW.

The Balvenie will plan a series of celebratory events throughout 2020 to mark the completion of the Compendium series.

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