A sip of The Balvenie Thirty doesn’t just give you a taste of any liquid indulgence, it is also an experience of intricately designed flavours born out of the marriage of rare traditional and European oak casks that have been matured for decades. This requires prodigious craftsmanship skills and years of experience that, in this instance, is manifested by former Malt Master David C. Stewart, who was awarded an MBE for services to the Scotch whisky industry by the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The Balvenie is distinguished in its field as the only distillery that still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings, and keeps both coppersmiths and coppers on site, which results in the most handcrafted of single malts. Amongst its unique range of single malts is The Balvenie Thirty, each luxuriously encased within a cylinder shape of soft goat leather construct finished with white gold foil. The treasure that lies within is a whisky of incredible sweetness and complexity, which gives way to rich honey, mellow oaky tones, and hints of candied orange peel on the palate.
To create a work of art that was simultaneously an ode to the whisky and worthy of it, The Balvenie enlisted Malaysian artist Pamela Tan to be part of The Makers Project, a global initiative that explores modern creativity and the human elements of handcraft.
“We continuously aim to inspire a new generation of Makers who embody The Balvenie’s values of the ultimate craftsmanship, while providing talents with a platform to leverage their creativity for a good cause,” says Nigel Ng, Luxury Marketing & Execution Head – Southeast Asia. “It has been an honour to host this auction and a privilege to work alongside Pamela on this exclusive and unique collectible, inspired by The Balvenie Thirty.”
Tan is an award-winning artist-architectural designer whose work has been exhibited in London’s Royal Academy of Arts. She often creates larger-than-life sculptures revolving around spaces but has deviated from her comfort zone to create Flux, which encapsulates the journey of the rare malt from barley to barrel.
Speaking of the creative process behind Flux, Tan says, “I first dived into the ingredients. I love looking at nature and science, so a particular main ingredient that stood out for me is the barley root. I did a bit of research on the diatoms of barley root, and looking at its sectional photographs, it is very beautiful. This set the tone of the work and I used this pattern to symbolise the whisky-making process from beginning to end as well as its rich flavour.
“The Balvenie Thirty includes notes of honey and has a sweetness to it, so I created Flux to look like ingredients flowing from a whisky barrel,” Tan continues. With the base of the work in gold stainless steel, she utilised amber plexiglass to create the appearance of honey when it is penetrated by sunlight. Tan also had to manually measure the surface area using strings to make sure the sculpture fitted precisely on the barrel because of the nature of the wood.
“I wanted to honour The Balvenie’s unique multi-generational whisky-making process of combining expertise, skill, and ambition through what is known as The Balvenie’s Five Rare Crafts,” Tan says. “The makers of The Balvenie have an intimate understanding of their materials. This is why our partnership was a perfect match. Their obsession for creating the best possible whisky by paying attention to every detail matched mine in art and design.”
Flux was auctioned off for charity at RM29,000 at an exclusive The Balvenie Thirty private dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Bar & Grill Restaurant in Sunway City Kuala Lumpur recently. The funds will be channelled to Helping Hands Penan, a non-profit social enterprise that celebrates the deep-rooted tradition of weaving and helps to empower Penan people in need to be self-sufficient.
Additional Reporting by Alicia Choo