By Andy Young

The Balvenie Scotch whisky has launched a unique whisky collection to celebrate the work, life and career of iconic malt master David Stewart.

The Balvenie's malt master David Stewart with Chapter One of the DCS Compendium

The Balvenie DCS Compendium comprises 25 extremely rare single cask bottlings dedicated to Stewart’s 54 years of experience in the industry. The DCS Compendium also has an accompanying book written by The Balvenie global ambassador and close colleague of Stewart’s, Dr Sam Simmons.

Speaking about the collection, Stewart told TheShout: “We’re launching Chapter One this evening [Tuesday] and the whole Compendium is 25 single casks and we’re going to do five a year for the next five years. Initially we got an idea of what each chapter should be and that gave me a steer on where I should be looking and what kind of casks I should be selecting.

“So for example the first chapter is all about the distillery character of The Balvenie and that meant I should look at American oak casks. Then we decided to go for a cask from each decade, so the sixties and seventies through to the youngest, which is 2005. They are all from American oak barrels, they are all bottled at cask strength and showing the honey, vanilla, butterscotch and the citrus notes that you get from The Balvenie. 

“Then the next chapter will be about the influence of wood, so we do put whisky into different cask types to create some of the expressions. We’ve got two casks bottled in the same year; one American oak and one from a European oak sherry cask to show the complete difference these two varieties of wood have on the whisky that goes in, in the same year. Then we’ve got a Port cask, a PX sherry and Fino and they are completely different.

Stewart started working at The Balvenie distillery in 1962, aged 17 and in 1974 he became the master blender and he told TheShout that the Compendium is very special to him.

“It is a big thing for me, it’s a big honour for me to be asked to do this and to call it the DCS collection, and Sam’s done a lovely book to go with it. The book goes through my career with the company and explains the five different chapters as well.”

Simmons added: “We probably started this about five years ago and that’s when David went into semi-retirement and spent some time going through casks in the distillery. Initially we thought we’d do 54 whiskies, one for each year he’s been at the distillery, but then we realised that would be insane. So then we thought ‘what makes David a malt master?’ There was the distillery style, how wood impacts whisky and also being surprised by whisky. These were all things that we thought would help us to narrow his 54 years of experience into a bunch of whiskies and that became the concept, to help organise David’s experience into a tangible drink.”

Once the concept was nailed down Stewart set about filling the chapters with whisky, as he explained to TheShout: “This gave me some structure and guidelines to select the casks, rather than just saying ‘go and select 25 casks’. I needed some structure to know what I was looking for, that made some sense for the different chapters. Then it took me about nine months to a year to select them, this is going back to 2014, when I started selecting the casks, looking through the distillery from the summer of 2014 through to the spring of 2015.”

The first chapter of the DCS Compendium comprises the following five cask strength whiskies: 1968, aged 46 years, 1978 aged 37 years, 1985, aged 30 years, 1997, aged 17 years and 2005, aged nine years. 

There are just 50 bottles of each whisky and only one complete collection is available in Australia, which is for sale through Dan Murphy’s for $57,000.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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