What you need to know:
- The fifth chapter in Balvenie’s Stories Collection continues with “The Tale of the Dog”, a 42 year old expression.
- It is decidedly a “smooth and honeyed expression of The Balvenie, delicately balancing sweet date and toffee notes with a light honey spice and lingering oak finish.”
- It features the story of Balvenie coppersmith Dennis McBain, who learns of the “copper dog”, a nifty little copper tube that workers would use to pilfer whisky.
- It is a copper tube with a cork on one end and a leash that is hooked to the inside of a trouser leg and then lowered into a cask of whisky with the metal leash to draw out some whiskay.
- We expound on why we love Balvenie for their Stories collection, a thoughtful work of marketing which helps fans relate to the craft that goes into the whisky, rather than some tenuous mambo jambo link between whisky and music.
- We also put out to our wonderful followers, the mystery of the two lost Balvenie Stories chapters bound for airports, “The Creation of a Classic” and “The Second Red Rose” which were announced but seems to have never seen the light of day due to the upheaval which is Covid-19.
(Image Source: Balvenie)
Balvenie’s Stories range continues! The Stories collection that started in 2019 is now in its fifth chapter with a 42 year old “The Tale of the Dog”.
This is the oldest of the collection yet and is bottled at 47% ABV.
The Stories collection originated as Balvenie Distillery wanted to build great whiskies around the stories that the distillery was built on and passed from one generation of craftsmen to the next. They capture for Balvenie lovers the tales that have collected over the distillery’s 129 year history.
Currently we only have whatever info we can find on the labels as these are fresh off the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (or TTB) which is where whiskies must be registered in order to be sold in the US. So really it’s some intense tea leaves reading here.
We gather this will be centered around the story of Balvenie coppersmith Dennis McBain and how Warehouse 24 got its first copper dog. Many terms little sense! What is a coppersmith? Who is Dennis McBain? What dog is made of copper??
(Image Source: Balvenie)
For starters, this is Dennis McBain, he’s been with Balvenie Distillery for 57 years and joined the distillery as an apprentice all the way back in 1958 as a coppersmith. Balvenie has its own team of industrious coppersmiths who help take care of the distillery’s copper stills used for distillation.
In fact its copper stills are one of the distillery’s 5 core tenets, given that the copper stills used are of a unique shape and size, featuring a unique “Balvenie Ball” shape, with a bulge between the neck and belly of the still. This is actually featured on every bottle of Balvenie which you’ll notice at the neck of the bottle. This allows the vapours of new make spirit more time to mix before heading to the top of neck to be collected. This is their secret to making a robust, heavier bodied, more flavorful whisky, with a more luscious mouthfeel.
The prized "Balvenie Ball" is subtly represented in every bottle of Balvenie's whiskies. (Image Source: Whisky.com)
So the story goes that in the early days of Dennis’ apprenticeship, he was given a copper tubing by the distillery manager and was told to flatten it by any means. It was certainly a weird piece of copper tubing that he hadn’t seen before but if your boss is asking you to do something, you get it done. It was only later that he learnt that the copper tubing was in fact a “dipping dog”, a little copper device used by distillery staff to pilfer some whiskies for themselves.
Balvenie loves the "copper dog" as a really special story of the distillery and even retails it as a souvenir at the distillery store. (Image Source: Thirst Mag)
This “copper dog” had been found by a distillery manager in a workman’s jacket during a regular inspection and the manager had wanted it rendered useless quietly to save the worker from punishment but at the same time ensuring no further use of it.
(Image Source: Balvenie)
This nifty little thing got its name as it was used by being hooked under a worker’s trouser leg via a small leash that allowed it to be lowered into a cask of whisky to scoop out some. Hence like a dog, it is kept on a leash and always by a worker’s side. The practice came to be known as “walking the dog”.
As for Warehouse 24, I suppose that’s where the event supposedly took place?
According to the back label, we can expect this bottle to be
“A smooth and honeyed expression of The Balvenie, delicately balancing sweet date and toffee notes with a light honey spice and lingering oak finish.”
We’re big fans of Balvenie and we’ve really enjoyed the Stories range. With whiskies being released almost weekly, we can appreciate how hard it is to stand out. But ultimately at the heart of it whiskies are for appreciating (vis-à-vis beer I suppose), and like art, it is that much more worth appreciating when you know the stories behind it. Otherwise we end up with questions like “pfft a 5 year old could do that” or “chug chug chug CHUG!”. We’ll leave it to you to guess which line applies to art and which one to whiskies.
Nobody in the history of ever has stood pensively (for the gram) in front of a Fontana and not thought "I swear I could do this". (Image Source: Christie's)
And unlike much of the marketing mambo jumbo, we can appreciate authentic stories told about a whisky’s provenance and the distillery behind it. Whether it’s a 130 year old distillery of a 5 year old one, there’s certainly lots to bond with fans over, after all who goes into this business if they weren’t into the spirit. It simply helps the drinker appreciate the craft that has gone into it that much more and relate to the distillery. That is how you build fans, not thresh out some non-existent link between whisky and music. Ooof.
The lost chapters that never saw the light outside of the airport.
One little puzzle the Stories collection has nonetheless presented us is the missing two chapters of “The Creation of A Classic” and “The Second Red Rose”, both of which seems to have been lost in the upheaval that is Covid-19.
They were supposedly bound for Travel Retail, which I suppose was not happening so much the past year. “The Creation of A Classic” being an American Oak Cask maturation and Oloroso Sherry Cask finish spirit, while “The Second Red Rose” supposedly a follow up from the legendary Balvenie’s 1991 16 Year Old vintage, “Rose”, which was finished in Shiraz casks and was purposed to have a pink tinge.
The Second Red Rose is a sequel to the legendary Balvenie Rose (which had a second release back in the day). (Image Source: Whisky Auctioneer)
We know they exists because we’ve seen the marketing collaterals rolled out for it and also I guess you can’t un-finish the Shiraz cask finishing. Well perhaps as the world reopens, we’ll see these lost chapters reveal themselves.