In a recent visit to Austin as a part of The Balvenie’s second annual Rare Craft Collection exhibition tour, Jonathan Wingo, The Balvenie brand ambassador, invited me to “dog a dram from the bung of a sherry butt.” Ahem, excuse me?
It turns out that I wasn’t the butt of some Scottish joke. A “dog” refers to a handmade copper pipe that can hold 100 milliliters (a little more than 3 ounces) of liquid. Legend has it that deceitful distillery workers in the early 1900s would filch shots of whisky by dipping the cylindrical dogs into the small opening of whisky barrels. They would then drop it down their drawers with chains attached to their belts to sneak it out unnoticed.
It begs for a “or are you just happy to see me” joke.
The Balvenie made replicas of these dogs to show off just how delicious its whisky is when aged in sherry casks and tasted straight from the barrel. If you didn’t get to dip your dog in the bung, never fear, you can replicate the experience with a bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 to experience how delicious whisky can be when aged in barrels previously used to age sherry.
DoubleWood may sound like yet another double entendre, but it refers to the whisky-aging process. The Balvenie’s malt master, David Stewart, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with the company, matures whisky in two different types of cask consecutively. The Balvenie starts by aging its whisky—made with barley grown and malted by the distillery—in American oak barrels, which give it soft vanilla flavors. It is then moved to European oak sherry casks, which give it additional vanilla flavors layered with honeyed sweetness and spicy flavors.
This is a lovely whisky to enjoy on a cool autumn night. Give it a sniff with your mouth wide open to properly appreciate the invigorating scents of baking spices, honey, vanilla and apple. Consider adding a drop or two of water and sip it neat. The water relaxes the chemical bonds of the ethyl alcohol to set the aromas free and gives it a silkier feel. Enjoy the caramel, toasted almond, cinnamon and toffee flavors while you contemplate how much more interesting The Sun Also Rises would be if you were in it.
This fantastic experience will set you back about $150. You are worth it.