50 Shades of…The Balvenie

It was a while, 7, 8 years ago, when I sat down in the plush surroundings high up on the 19th floor of the Westin Grand, for a vertical tasting of The Balvenie.  Starting with two types of new make spirit we went through 9 different expressions, ending with The Balvenie 30.  The Balvenie has a distinctive house style signature of honey notes, ideal for summer in Cape Town.

This past weekend I went back to the Westin and perched up on high, looked upon the CTICC, where the Whisky Live Festival in kicks off on Wednesday 3 October.  After 10 years, what’s new and exciting at the show? What about a whisky created to honour a man for 50 years of service to whisky?  What about a whisky that sells for R 240 000.00 a bottle.  If you can get one. Because there are only 2 in South Africa.

Here is the PR info from Balvenie. Have a read. This is whisky – love and respect.





Longest serving Scotch malt master marks incredible half century with release of extremely rare fifty year old single malt.

It’s rare to find someone in any field who has devoted 50 years to mastering their craft, but David Stewart, known throughout the Scotch industry as the ‘modest man of whisky’,  has dedicated his entire working life to the art of single malt making, becoming one of the most respected craftsmen in his field. He began working at The Balvenie Distillery in 1962 – a year before single malt whisky was officially exported outside Scotland and served a lengthy 12 year apprenticeship before taking on the title of malt master.

This incredible devotion is being recognized, exactly 50 years to the day that David joined the highland distillery as a seventeen year old apprentice, with the release of a rare cask of The Balvenie single malt distilled in 1962. Just 88 bottles of The Balvenie Fifty will be available, with an RRP of £20,000 per bottle (R240 000 in South Africa).

One of just a handful of malt masters in Scotland, David has an incredible natural talent for reading whisky with his nose and palate and during his career David estimates that he has nosed over 400,000 whisky casks. Also recognised as being behind some of Scotch whisky’s greatest innovations, David’s commitment to retaining traditional techniques as well as championing groundbreaking new methods have earned him some of the industry’s most notable accolades. Bestowed a lifetime achievement award in 2005 by a distinguished panel of experts from the International Wine and Spirits Competition, That year David was also awarded the Grand Prix of Gastronomy by the British Academy of Gastronomes.

Commenting on the release of The Balvenie Fifty, David Stewart said: “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’s true to say I have a dream job and I’ve been privileged to taste a lot of  wonderful whisky in my time, but it’s a great delight to discover how after half a century this unique cask has turned out a truly special single malt.”

The Balvenie Fifty was matured in a European oak sherry hogshead, rarely used today in whisky making. Filled with newly distilled spirit in 1962, over the following 50 years, while David Stewart committed himself to perfecting his craft, the spirit slowly matured into an outstanding single malt Scotch whisky. The particularly long maturation has created a wonderful fragrant and floral whisky, which is velvety sweet with a beautifully balanced combination of sweet citrus notes and gentle hints of honey, spice and oak.

The Balvenie Fifty is an extremely limited edition release with just two bottles available in South Africa at a RRP of R240 000.”

Some info about the man and the whisky:


“About David Stewart


Today, David is well known for his ground-breaking achievements in the whisky world. While he maintains an unassuming air towards his accomplishments at The Balvenie Distillery, they are by no means small:

  • 3rd September 1962 – David Stewart joins The Balvenie Distillery
  • 1974 – Following a 12 year apprenticeship becomes The Balvenie Malt Master
  • 1980s  – Creates The Balvenie Classic, one of the first Scotch whisky ‘finishes’
  • 1996  – Creates The Balvenie’s most awarded expression, PortWood 21 Year Old
  • 2001 – Launches the ground-breaking Islay Cask 17 Year Old – the first Speyside whisky matured in casks previously holding Islay whisky.
  • 2005 – Awarded the Grand Prix of Gastronomy by the British Academy of Gastronomes and the IWSC Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2007  – Awarded the Malt Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2011 – The Balvenie PortWood Aged 21 Years named world’s best spirit –taking the Supreme Champion Spirit accolade at the International Spirits Challenge
  • 2012 – Celebrates 50th year at the distillery with launch of The Balvenie Fifty.




About The Balvenie Fifty


v  With an ABV of 44.1%, The Balvenie Fifty’s nose is fragrant and floral with fruit and oak lusciously intermingled. Citrus notes of lemons and orange peel are followed by honey and vanilla and finally a gentle hint of cinnamon and subtle oak. Its taste is velvety sweet and wonderfully soft, fruit and citrus notes are accompanied by a beautiful outburst of cinnamon and nutmeg and a subtle back note of honey, all balanced with oak. The finish is velvety smooth with a delicious citrus sweetness.

v  The Balvenie Fifty is presented in a hand blown glass bottle surrounded by a wooden case, created by Scottish craftsman, Sam Chinnery. Forty nine rings of seven beautiful Scottish grown timbers mark Malt Master David Stewart’s half century at The Balvenie distillery. Galloway Ash, Borders Oak, Lothian Walnut, Cherry and Yew, Fife Beech, and fittingly, Banffshire Elm from The Balvenie Distillery site and a closing layer in brass, echoing the fittings of the distillery’s stills and spirit safes.



About The Balvenie


v  The Balvenie is a unique range of single malts created by David Stewart, The Balvenie Malt Master.  Each has a very individual taste, but each is rich, luxuriously smooth and underpinned by a distinctively honeyed character. Little has changed at Balvenie Distillery over the years.  The only whisky distillery in Scotland to still employ the five traditional crafts in making a single malt Scotch whisky.  It still grows its own barley, has its own traditional floor maltings, a coppersmith to tend the stills, coopers to mend the casks and the industry’s most experienced malt master.

The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky is produced by William Grant & Sons Ltd,anaward-winning independent family-owned distiller founded by William Grant in 1886 and today run by his direct descendants.