GSN’s One For the Road: The Balvenie x Billy Reid NYC

Conceived in the 1980s, Balvenie Classic was the first scotch whisky to employ a second, more exotic barrel to finish the aging process. The malt master chose a finishing cask, such as a sherry cask, imbued with characteristics which were then imparted on the fully aged whisky. 

The Balvenie Stories whiskies, launched this year, are a trio of remakes of the Classic, which use a finishing barrel to deepen the flavor and tell their stories. Similarly, the Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old is finished in ex-rum barrels that are shipped to Scotland. Rum-barrel finishing produces delicious results, however those results can be a bit wild, with each barrel producing a completely different set of flavors. The malt master, looking for a consistent product, came up with a unique solution. He blended his own rum, and used it to season the imported barrels before they were used for a secondary maturation of the whisky. By testing the seasoned barrels, he determines whether the rum can be used for another barrel, or must be discarded. This kind of precision exemplifies the dedication to craft espoused by William Grant & Sons, the family company which operates The Balvenie. The end product contains notes of sugarcane and tropical fruit, with hints of juicy walnuts and laminated dough, like the soft buttery part of the inside of a croissant.

The Balvenie Spiced Yule Holiday Cocktail (Photo credit Naomi Leslie)

For The Balvenie, the spirit of craft and tradition also drives their marketing partnerships. The company approached Alabama-based fashion brand Billy Reid for a successful marketing partnership which launched last year, seeing kinship in their commitment to craft across their respective categories. Billy Reid’s clothes, shoes, and eyewear are all about high quality craft, embedded in tradition, yet blending an aesthetic of stripped-down ornamentation. They evoke a kind of worn-in-ness that stays in style from year to year.

I was introduced to the partnership and the brand on Thursday, December 12, 2019 at Billy Reid’s cozy and inviting New York flagship store in NoHo. The parlor and garden-level shop on Bond St. was filled with a variety of guests, a jazz trio, gourmet cheeses, charcuterie – and my personal favorite: cheese straws.

Bartenders offered the two Balvenie whiskies involved in this partnership: the Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old, and the DoubleWood 12 Year Old as the Classic is now known. They also offered a holiday punch, the popular choice, a bright and balanced recipe developed by Billy Reid team members, combining DoubleWood with grapefruit, grenadine, and Carpano Antica. Customers shopping at Billy Reid on another night this winter won’t find live jazz or punch; however, they can sip one of the whiskies featured in this partnership.

The event was flavored with Southern hospitality, reminiscent of Billy Reid’s “Shindig,” the brand’s annual festival held in Alabama, which hosts big-name chefs and musicians in a worldly weekend of fashion, music, and food.

Article by Paul Melnikow for Good Spirits News