|The Balvenie Distillery lies at the very heart of Scotch whisky country in Speyside, in the Scottish Highlands. The 1890's were boom years for the Scotch whisky industry and in early 1892 work began to convert an eighteenth century mansion, Balvenie New House, into a distillery. The basement was to become a bonded store for maturing whisky, the first storey a malt floor, whilst the upper two floors were to be used as grain lofts. The building took fifteen months to complete and on 1st May 1893, the first distillation took place at The Balvenie Distillery. |
In the early 1920's the old mansion was levelled to the basement floor and the stone blocks were used to build a new malt barn and kiln. There was a new office and racking store; the old malt kiln was converted into malt bins and electric light was installed.
In 1957 the number of stills, which had remained at two since 1893, was increased to four and since then there have been other discreet expansions, such that today there are nine stills at The Balvenie Distillery.
But little else has altered over the years and The Balvenie Distillery is still firmly rooted in its past. Nowhere else will you find a distillery that still grows its own barley, still malts in its own traditional floor maltings and still employs coopers to tend the casks and a coppersmith to maintain the stills. Successive generations of skill on the malting floor, in the tun room and the still house, in the cooperage and the warehouses have preserved the consistency and remarkably high quality of The Balvenie down the years.
Today The Balvenie Distillery produces a range of The Balvenie Single Malts, which includes The Balvenie Founder's Reserve 10 Year Old, The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old, The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 Year Old, The Balvenie PortWood 21 Year Old and The Balvenie Single Barrel 25 Year Old. A rare, limited edition Vintage Cask, which is over 30 years old, is also bottled each year.
The founder, William Grant was born on 19th December 1839 in his father's house in Dufftown. At seven he was sent to augment the family income by herding cattle at a farm on the upper reaches of the River Deveron. Apprenticed to a shoemaker and after a spell as a clerk, William took a job in 1866 as a book-keeper at Mortlach distillery. Immediately he set about learning the art of distilling and in a short time he was appointed clerk and manager.
After almost twenty years of learning the art of distilling, William Grant resigned from his job at the Mortlach distillery and bought a field beneath the towering shadow of The Balvenie Castle. He then drew up plans for his distillery and the foundation stone was laid in the autumn of 1886.
William Grant was a man of extraordinary capacities. One of the Dufftown Volunteers, William Ramsay, gave a vivid portrait of the old Major:
'Mr Grant was always busy with something. Oh yes, he was a very bright man - a very live cove. He wasn't a particularly tall man but he was a broad man that could carry himself, and always with dignity - nothing proud about him.'
Although he spoke in the broad Scots of his native Banffshire the Major had a withering command of English particularly when he had a pen in his hand. Highly efficient himself and consumed with energy and ambition he found it difficult to countenance incompetence in others and his bluntness was legendary. On the other hand, with his staff he was a model of consideration. The story goes that he always whistled loudly when he moved around the distillery, especially when approaching a warehouse where he might have stumbled on one of the workers extracting a dram from a convenient cask.
William Grant remained active in the company until his death in 1923 at the grand age of 83.
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