Balvenie single malt scotch celebrates American craftsmanship

Admittedly, I am a bit of a food snob and my friends know that it also applies to wine. What many of my friends don’t know, however, is that I’m equally snobbish about single malt Scotch whiskey. My philosophy about food, wine and whiskey has always been, “Life’s too short.  If it’s not excellent, why bother?” Imagine my excitement when I was invited to attend an evening of single malt Scotch tasting as part of the Balvenie “Rare Craft Roadshow.”

The tasting event took place on Thursday, May 3 at Prairie Productions on West Randolph Street. Participants were able to taste samples of four Balvenie products which included the 14-year-old Caribbean Cask, and the 12-year old Doublewood, a 15-year-old Single Barrel. The highlight of the evening was a tasting of a 21-year-old Portwood Aged Single Malt.

Balvenie has always been one of my favorite brands of single malt, and with some excellent reasons. The rightfully claim that they are “the world’s most hand-crafted single malt Scotch.” This commitment to quality has always made Balvenie stand out as one of the finest of the single malts ever since the distillery began to produce in 1893. Family-owned for five generations, single-malt Scotch brand the Balvenie is big on the traditional hands-on process of distilling whiskey. The distillery still grows its own barley, malts in its own traditional malting floor, employs coopers to tend every cask, a coppersmith to maintain the stills, and a malt master to ensure that the resulting spirit is consistently excellent.

In a bid to highlight its commitment to such, the brand kicked off a mobile marketing campaign in March 2011 to find other like-minded companies and individuals. Led by ambassadors Nicholas Pollacchi and Andrew Weir and dubbed the Balvenie “Rare Craft Roadshow,” the traveling promotion toured the U.S. to ferret out workshops, studios, and stores still creating products by hand. Building on the success of the 2011 tour, Balvenie decided to continue the journey across America for another year. The duo has travelled from city to city in handcrafted Morgan Car (a company that still assembles its vehicles by hand), visiting the workshops, studios, and outlets where rare crafts are being kept alive. There are numerous videos on YouTube highlighting the 2011 and the 2012 tours.

As part of the 2011 tour, the due was filmed by acclaimed director Rob Meyer who created a 30 minute documentary titled Handmade: A Celebration of American Craftsmanship. The film highlights the state of craftsmanship in America and shines a light on some of the unsung heroes of their industries. You can view a trailer for the film on YouTube.

Their recent Chicago stop included a visit to two extraordinary businesses with a strong commitment to traditional craftsmanship: R.S. Owens and Oxxford Clothes.

From the Emmy and the Oscar to a host of other awards, R.S. Owens creates high-end trophies, and during their visit, the Balvenie ambassadors met master mold maker Chris Rowe. Follow this link to learn more about that visit.

Since 1916 Chicago has been home to one of the finest suit makers in the business. Clothes make the man, and Rocco Giovannangelo and the staff at Oxxford Clothes put the “D” in dapper. Just for the record, the double XX is correct. Follow this link to learn more about the Balvenie visit and the story behind the double XX.

To learn where the Rare Craft Roadshow is headed next, visit their website.

Slainte Mhath!


NOTE: The cover photo of Balvenie Caribbean Cask, Aged 14 Years courtesy of Studio This Is.






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