Guest post by one of our members: Mr Ryan Alexander aka @rnalexander
In May, the nice people at The Balvenie set up an special treat for whisky lovers just next to Covent Garden in London. A temporary installation in the space that used to be an antiquarian bookstore, these ‘pop-ups’ are becoming a trend. In this case whisky fans would have a month’s window of opportunity to come by the Balvenie Whisky Den to get a special chance to sample some of the Balvenie line, and learn a bit more about it. Even better, the Balvenie folks arranged a special evening for the LCS to come and pay a visit. I was particularly interested as whisky is one of weaker areas of my spirits knowledge and this seemed an excellent place to try to shore that up.
The old bookstore had been stripped down to the walls and the new furnishings were constructed out of long thin timbers and staves (the pieces of wood that make up barrels). The effect was to give the place a feel somewhere in-between a pirate ship and a garden shed (in a good way!). We all gathered in the upstairs where we were given a chance to try some of the Balvenie’s lines. A double-wooded 12, their signature 12 blend, and a lovely 15-year old (my personal favourite.) We got to hear a little bit more about the history of the company and the whisky, some of which was literally all around us, as it turns out the timbers they used for the décor were from old whiskey barrels.
After a bit more chatting we were taken downstairs where the furnishings were even more elaborate. But the real surprise was that were were invited to participate in a blend-off. We broke into teams and each team was given three bottles of whiskey, one of the each of the three single-malt whiskeys which are blended to make the Balvenie signature 12. Our task, blend our own signature!
Those who remember the great triumph of the Christmas party at Callooh Callay will know that I am not one to back down from such a challenge. My team therefore set out to create a blend to take on all challengers. It was a bit touch and go, towards the end one of my fellow team mates noticed the flat middle of the flavour curve of our blend and suggested just the thing to fix it…so feeling quite positive about the blend we passed our creation along to the judges. As it turns out, our confidence was fully justified, as we won!
The LCS retired upstairs to um… further research the remains of our endeavours. My team and I got to have another dram at the bar as a victory lap reward for our performance in the mixing.
Quite a great evening out, and a very good introduction to both the Balvenie and whisky in general. Many thanks to The Balvenie folks for hosting us!