As I continue my progress towards the goal of some sort of connoisseurship, I find that whisky tastings and seminars are priceless.
It works on so many levels. There are always new bits of information on the basic fundamentals of what goes into the creating a great whisky. Then tastings plunge deep into the actual ability of being able to pluck scents and tastes out of the dram.
As I stated in my original post, this is a journey. I am just loving the trip and stopping to smell the roses (scotches). I am already blown away by how wonderfully refined some people’s palates are, and how my own opinions are developing.
I am going to post this Balvenie Tasting in a two part series. Part one will focus on the event itself and the experience. Part Two will be about the main event…tasting The Balvenie scotches.
I somehow managed to beat out the heavy traffic I expected after work, and got to the tasting obnoxiously early. That seems to be a trend at this point. My buddy Pete (who also joined me at this event) and I got to the Whisky Guild tasting in March so early that we were literally told they were not ready to sign us in yet.
That being said, I got to spend a little bit of time with a couple of talented people that were working behind the scenes to make this event as wonderful as it was. In addition to some helpful
’s staffers, there were two primary folks setting up the tasting. Sue from William Grant & Sons and her partner in crime Jen. They worked efficiently to get the place set up in a jiffy. Joe Canal
One of the things that struck me off the bat was their attention to detail. Being a detail oriented guy myself, I truly appreciated some of the ‘finer points’ that they brought to the table. For example, something tiny…the placemats. The original placemats were a generic
version, that while not terrible, looked a bit generic, recently printed, and didn’t really represent the feel of class and craftsmanship that The Balvenie represents in my mind. Joe Canals
Sue & Jen swapped them out for the much better version you see here:
Craftsmanship is one of the key marketing approaches that The Balvenie has been pushing lately. It is one of the things they take pride in, and rightfully so. Many of you may be familiar with the five rare crafts that The Balvenie still practices to this day that many other distilleries have long since abandoned, but if not, you can learn more here.
I think that the folks at Balvenie should be happy to know that today’s team (Sue, Jen and Nicholas) all took the ‘Balvenie Approach’ to the tasting. That is to say that they worked hard, used their hands, and all had a down to Earth feel that is indicative of the term 'craftsmanship'.
Nicholas was a bit younger looking than I expected, but don’t let that fool you. This man is experienced, wise and charismatic. Perhaps all of that “usquebaugh” (water of life) is helping him age well!
|Nicholas Pollachi and Whisky Joe|
Nicholas has the prototypical wonderful accent, and above all else, the uncanny ability to be articulate and informative, while also being genuine and approachable. He carried us through the range with great details on each of the expressions we sampled. Nicholas also introduced us to some of the more unique tasting methods I have experienced to date, such as rubbing the scotch on the back of your hand, and rubbing it in your hands and cupping them to gather new aromas. On a fun note, he wasn’t afraid to be a bit crass at times once he determined that the crowd was warm to the idea. As he so eloquently put, “I speak the Queen’s English…if she had Torret’s Syndrome”.
One last note on craftsmanship here. Nicholas has been driving the Morgan 8 around and honoring those that make things handmade and The Balvenie has a program that you can nominate those that you think may be worthy of such an acknowledgement. If you know someone that takes this approach in their area of expertise, please visit The Balvenie Rare Crafts Roadshow and nominate them.
We had the honor of enjoying five whiskies from The Balvenie:
Tasting notes on these will be in the next post.
All in all I must say that the experience was worth every penny, and I want to thank
’s for hosting. The Balvenie did an excellent job of not only presenting their brand and their exceptional whiskies, but of showing how their pride in craftsmanship trickles down into everything they do. Joe Canal