The Balvenie Telescope at Cervo Zermatt

Posted on 06/11/2018 by Eileen Schuch
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Balvenie Telescope Cervo Zermatt Matterhorn

The Matterhorn and Switzerland go together like cheese and whisky. The iconic pyramid-shaped mountain is said to be the most-photographed mountain in the world. How about looking at it from an entirely new angle? The Balvenie and the Cervo Zermatt invite you to the hotel’s terrace for a zoom at the Matterhorn through the handcrafted Balvenie Telescope.

Majestic and calm, the king of mountains overlooks Zermatt and, for millennia, witnesses the Earth’s evolution. Many things may have changed, but others remain the same. It is so with The Balvenie. Since its foundation, not a lot has changed at the distillery. The Balvenie single malts are still produced in the same traditional way they always were. Fully dedicated to the Five Rare Crafts, The Balvenie is the only distillery that grows its own barley, has traditional malting floors, its own coppersmith, coopers and Malt Master.

The Balvenie’s Five Rare Crafts

1. Homegrown barley: at the origin of The Balvenie authentic Scotch whisky is the soil… its fruits, and the people who cultivate them. Every year, at the thousand-acre Balvenie Mains farm that is adjacent to the distillery, barley is sown, grown and harvested the same way it has always been. With the Scottish weather being so unpredictable, to know when to sow and when to harvest is a crucial skill that is passed down by hand from one generation of farmers to the other.

2. Malting floors: The Balvenie operates a working floor maltings. There are only a few of this kind left in Scotland. First, the barley they grow is steeped in spring water that is sourced from the hills surrounding the distillery. Then, the grains are spread out on the floor. The malt men turn them by hand until the malted barley is ready for the kiln. It is then dried using anthracite and a carefully judged amount of peat. There is only one thing that allows getting it right: experience! The malt men look at the outside of the seed and judge whether it has the right softness and chalky texture on the inside.

3. Copper stills: The two determining factors here are shape and size. The Balvenie stills are pretty much the same they were since the opening of the distillery. The same ‘Balvenie Ball’ shape, with a bulge or boil ball at the base of the swan’s neck – a feature replicated in the neck of The Balvenie bottle. This shape allows the vapors more time to mix before they reach the head. Call it alchemy, but Balvenie says itself that “The copper stills affect the taste of our whisky.” Good on Balvenie then to have their own coppersmith. He repairs the stills when necessary and makes sure they’re ‘sweetened’ before the next round of whisky-making, meaning the first thing that is boiled in the stills are juniper branches. It is a tradition.

4. Cooperage: That is an art. It is looking at a cask and determining whether it needs to be ‘toasted’, meaning ‘to caramelize’ the wood sugar, just enough to release all the flavors within. It is what Balvenie coopers do all day: work whisky casks so that they are in perfect condition at all times. If you would like to learn this skill, you would have to sign up for an apprenticeship of four years and continue gathering experience over years in order to keep everything ‘wind and watertight’ every time.

5. Malt Master: Balvenie’s David C. Stewart MBE is the longest-serving Malt Master in the Scotch whisky industry. He started work at The Balvenie distillery in 1962, at the age of just 17. His apprenticeship took 12 years and allowed him to develop the necessary skills to create the very finest single malt whisky. It is safe to say: No one knows whisky like David does. He manages and oversees the maturing process of each Balvenie whisky. Nosing samples, David decides which casks can be bottled after 12 years, those that will be perfectly finished in oak, or the rare ones that will mature on to become 21, 30 and beyond.

The latest chapter, a tale of craft and passion, is co-written by The Balvenie and Mark Turner, the creator of unique, bespoke telescopes. He is one of only a handful telescope craftsmen in the world and his resume as impressive as it is atypical: award-winning garden designer, statue designer, interior designer and artist, photographer… and astronomer. Until he decides to turn his passion into a profession: “Making telescopes is unique – there are few, if any, crafts in the world where you can bring the heavens closer by using your hands, skill and imagination to build these beautiful instruments.” Mark Turner’s signature is the perfect balance of beauty and functionality, a masterful blend of science and art.

Much like the prowess that is necessary to build a bespoke telescope by hand, it takes skilled and experienced craftsmen to create a truly singular whisky such as The Balvenie.

In honor of the dedication to tradition and artistry, that unites them, Mark Turner, in collaboration with Master Wood Craftsman and cabinetmaker Paul Cruickshank-Inns, used raw materials and barrels and transformed them into a remarkable, utterly beautiful instrument. The copper exterior of the telescope reminds of the stills at The Balvenie’s distillery in Dufftown, Scotland. The tripod on which the telescope stands as well as its custom-made case are both handcrafted from oak wood.

Reminiscing the Five Rare Crafts, there are only five Balvenie Telescopes worldwide. One of them is dedicated to Switzerland where it was first hosted by the Four Seasons Des Bergues in Geneva and then traveled on to the Art Deco Hotel Montana in Lucerne until the end of January. Until the end of March, it is now installed on the terrace of the Cervo in Zermatt, allowing you to scan the surrounding mountainscape. Once you’ve been on the terrace and you peeked at the stars, you may want to come back inside and sit by the fireside.

Whisky, Cheese and Chocolate – Indulge at the Cervo

These are the Balvenie Whiskies you can enjoy at the Cervo: The Balvenie Double Wood (Aged 12 Years), The Balvenie Caribbean Cask (Aged 14 Years), The Balvenie Single Barrel Sherry Oak (Aged 15 Years), The Balvenie Double Wood (Aged 17 Years), The Balvenie Port Wood (Aged 21 Years) and The Balvenie TUN 1509 Batch 4.

To sublime the experience, you can enjoy delicious Whisky & Cheese and Whisky & Chocolate pairings:

Balvenie Whisky & Cheese Pairings

The Balvenie Double Wood & La Bouse
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask & Aberot
The Balvenie Double Wood & Cironé
The Balvenie Port Wood & Hobelkäse

Balvenie Whisky & Chocolate Pairings

The Balvenie Double Wood & Cream chocolate
The Balvenie Double Wood & Dark chocolate

For the cocktail lovers are among, the Cervo serves two Signature Balvenie Cocktails. The Rusty Thym – The Balvenie Double Wood, Aged 12 Years, honey, lemon juice, thyme – and The Balvenie Mint Julep – The Balvenie Double Wood, Aged 12 Years, soda water, mint, sugar, and crushed ice.

We hope you get to go to Zermatt. If you make it, post a picture of you at The Balvenie Telescope and tag it with #thebalvenietelescope.

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