In conversation with Charles Metcalfe, the global brand ambassador for The Balvenie. The Balvenie is a premium single malt whisky part of the William Grant and Sons portfolio that also includes Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder and Hendrick’s Gin.
BT: How important is India as a market for you?
Charles Metcalfe: Indians have always loved their whiskies and I’m happy to have an opportunity to be able to bring The Balvenie’s story to the country. India is amongst the fastest growing countries for most liquor brands, with an upwardly mobile consumer base and a palette that is always evolving and experimenting. To cater to this diverse audience with unique tastes and preferences, we offer different expressions of The Balvenie single malt whisky. Our signature expression, The Balvenie DoubleWood Twelve-Year-Old, is a combination of American oak, ex bourbon barrels and Spanish oak, ex oloroso sherry butts. This is the most popular. It is available across the country and is priced at Rs 8,840, Rs 5,200, Rs 9,400, Rs 8,260, Rs 8,200 in Mumbai, Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Goa for 700ml respectively. The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-year-old is available for Rs 10,900 in Mumbai for 700ml. The Balvenie Single Barrel Traditional Oak 21-year-old is a rare and premium whisky available in Gurgaon and Mumbai for Rs 35,000. We will soon launch the The Balvenie French Oak 16-year-old in India.
BT: What are Balvenie's growth plans in India?
Charles Metcalfe: India is the largest consumer of whiskies. With a rise in premiumisation and consumers upgrading by spending more on drinking better, we see this as a huge opportunity to build the brand in the years to come. The Balvenie in India will continue to set industry benchmarks by leading in luxury with its price positioning and distinctive storytelling to set itself apart in the wide range of whiskies available in the premium segment today.
BT: How would The Balvenie from the 1920s or the 1940s compare to today’s Balvenie?
Charles Metcalfe: In a world of increasing automation and digital consumption, true craft is fast becoming a rare commodity. But it’s against this backdrop that our commitment to ultimate craftsmanship has never felt so relevant. In an age of social media where everyone claims their craft credentials, The Balvenie maintains its distinctive character in its heart. Through natural alchemy and centuries-old craftsmanship, The Balvenie is unique among single malts. We are the only distillery in Scotland that still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings and keeps both a coppersmith and a team of coopers on site.
BT: How is it that The Balvenie has whiskies that were allowed to mature for more than half a century?
Charles Metcalfe: Here at the Balvenie, we are lucky to have a great array of aged stock maturing in our warehouses. Due to the fact that we are a family-owned company we are under no pressure to bottle whisky until we are ready to do so and that gives us a lot of freedom.
BT: Was that always the intention or was this a case that if the whisky was improving it was allowed to keep maturing until someone made the decision that it was time to bottle it?
Charles Metcalfe: The stock maturing in the warehouses is carefully looked after by malt master David C. Stewart. He is in charge when it comes to looking after the quality and flavour of our whisky stocks for all ages. In terms of the old stock, we never fill a cask with the intention of it being a very old whisky, we just need to assess it and see how the flavour is developing. When he feels like the flavour is at its best then we will then bottle that whisky.
BT: What’s the oldest whisky currently being matured in The Balvenie’s warehouses?
Charles Metcalfe: We are lucky to have whisky in our warehouses that go way back to the 60s. In today’s whisky world these are very rare casks and we are looking forward to sharing them when the time is right.
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