Spirit Of The Week: The Balvenie French Oak 16-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch

Raise a glass of this exceptional single malt to celebrate International Whisk(e)y Day.

(The Balvenie)

In honor of International Whisk(e)y Day, Maxim.com’s Spirit Of the Week comes from one the most esteemed houses across all forms of whisk(e)y—from bourbon to Irish and Japanese to rye.

Under the wizened guiding hand of legendary Malt Master David C. Stewart MBE, The Balvenie has steadily grown into one of the most respected names in the lofty single malt scotch category.

Stewart’s contributions to the Queen and Kingdom are so profound, in fact, that in 2016 he was presented a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the third highest ranking Order of the British Empire. 

It’s no small thing to say The House of Balvenie was built on Stewart’s experimentations with second finishes—aging a spirit in a second barrel after initial maturation in another barrel—from which the Speyside distillery’s core bottles were born: DoubleWood 12-Year-Old, Caribbean Cask 14-Year-Old and PortWood 21-Year-Old.

The process starts with barley grown on The Balvenie estate’s 1,000-acre farm, malted and copper pot-distilled on site, and then aged for said years in American ex-bourbon oak casks. Depending on the expression the single malt is then second-aged in the respective barrels of its line: fresh European sherry casks for DoubleWood, West Indies rum barrels for Caribbean Cask and port wine pipes for the breathtakingly good PortWood.

And now, for the first time in a decade, The Balvenie announces a new permanent member of its Cask Finishes Range: The Balvenie French Oak 16-Year-Old.

(The Balvenie)

As the name implies, the fourth entry into the Cask Finishes Range is finished in wood that previously held Pineau wine from the French Charentes vineyards. The story goes that during the travels of William Grant & Sons U.S. Ambassador Lorne Cousin through France he discovered Pineau des Charentes, a fortified wine made by blending unfermented grape juice with cognac eau-de-vie

With the introduction of these barrels, the experimentations began. 

“As part of our continued journey of exploration and innovation, we found that French wine casks offer a light, fresh finish we had not previously leveraged,” the esteemed Malt Master Stewart explains. 

“Pineau des Charentes’ vibrant and distinct flavors, extracted from our signature double maturation process, not only bring greater depth to our range but deliver an element of luxury and craft that is unmistakably The Balvenie.”

(The Balvenie)

As expected from The Balvenie, French Oak 16-Year-Old offers a beautiful, rich color and oily mouthfeel, luxurious even by the elevated standards of the single malt category. The Pineau French Oak casks add citrus notes of lemon rind and grapefruit, as well as ice wine and ginger to The Balvenie’s traditional vanilla, honey and oak base. 

The Balvenie French Oak 16-Year-Old comes bottled at 47.6% ABV with an SRP of $175.

Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.