The Balvenie
21 years old
The Second Red Rose
Whisky type
Single Malt
The Balvenie Distillery
Speyside, Scotland
Year launched/bottled
The Balvenie
In collection

Review by The Balvenie


Intense ripe fruits combined with robust earthy tones, reveal the mouth-watering fragrance from fresh mango and subtle oak


An initial burst of blackberry and ripe peach sweetness, conceal flavours of vibrant oak and cracked black pepper leaving a gentle woody spice


Lingering oakiness


The Second Red Rose is finished in Australian Shiraz casks, for an elegant dram brimming with notes of fresh, ripe fruits and delicate spice.


The story of David C Stewart and the creation of two extraordinary red roses. Inspired by the history of Balvenie castle, this story celebrates the story of the rose, the desire of our visitors for a distillery exclusive and the romance in creating a new whisky.

This is the story of a rare red rose that would go on to inspire not one, but two rare Balvenie whiskies. The first, the original Balvenie Rose, was a liquid of such intriguing colour and taste that it would become the talk of Dufftown for many years to come. Its story, and the one of its successor, The Second Red Rose, began many centuries ago in a castle high on a Speyside hill

Margaret Douglas, widow of the 8th Earl of Douglas, lived for many years in Balvenie Castle, on the edge of the land that would eventually become the home of The Balvenie Distillery. Her rent for living there, payable to King James II, took the form of one exquisite red rose. The flower, so the story goes, had a vibrant magenta hue, and was considered not only to be extremely beautiful, but extremely valuable too.

As decades, and then centuries passed, the castle fell into disrepair, its original inhabitants now long gone. But the tale of the rare red flower lived on. Oh, the rose! David C Stewart, The Balvenies Malt Master, remembers the story well. It was, he smiles gently, the inspiration for the first Balvenie Rose. The aim was to create a deeply vibrant whisky, to evoke the flower in question. Thats where it all began.

Port pipes were the first experimental instinct of our Malt Master because of the colour he imagined they could create. It all came together beautifully, he says, the significance of the rose, the colour, wanting the story to come to life. Today, The Balvenies Second Red Rose is finished in Australian Shiraz casks, bringing a distinctive blush to the whisky and a sweetly vibrant, rounded depth of flavour.

David Mair, Distillery Ambassador, is sitting on the big leather sofa in the cosy little room just to the right of the main door at The Balvenie Visitor Centre, when he jumps up to fetch the original box that the first Rose was presented in. Red, and satin-lined, it was, he explains: Something unusual, distinctive; he pauses, and ponders, something romantic. As its launch was an exclusive for the Visitors Centre, the first Rose occupies a nostalgic spot in many peoples memories. David remembers: People would come and take a tour of the distillery just so they had a chance to see, and to own, one of these limited bottles at the end of their visit. People do still talk about it. It was a real talking point.

One of those very visitors was long-time whisky collector and author Olaf Karlinsky. As soon as he discovered that the first Rose would be released as a distillery exclusive, he booked a flight from his home in Germany bound for Scotland. He remembers, The team were offering one bottle per tour visitor. No exceptions. But I was lucky enough to travel with my wife, which made the trip even more special for two reasons: one, her company, and two, the bottle she was able to pick up too! We climbed the hill to Balvenie Castle afterwards to search for the rose itself - but it retained its mystery, and stayed hidden. They still have the two bottles. One, Olaf says, for his collection, the other for sharing with special people on special occasions.

And so, from one rare magenta rose to two rare whiskies. This colourful tale has been one of legend and legacy.

Source: The Balvenie