Ring of Fire | Ballantine’s Hard Fired
“Be yourself, be authentic, be genuine and the stories that you live will deserve to be toasted,” said Ballantine’s founder, George Ballantine, some 200 years ago. As purveyors of some of the finest blended whiskies in the world, Ballantine’s is as relevant today as it was all those years ago. And in true Ballantine’s style, the launch of their newest whisky, Hard Fired, is a story that George himself would have be proud of.
As it’s name suggests, fire is essential to the blend. And where better to demonstrate its power than at the London Glassblowing Studio. As an art gallery and hot-glass studio, the power of fire is felt the moment you walk through the doors. The furnace, which master glassblower, Layne Rowe, says burns at a scorching 1,600 degrees Celsius, is hard to ignore, and the Hard Fire cocktails seem to perfectly complement the ambience.
With London commemorating the 350 year anniversary of the Great Fire of London, we’re made overtly aware of the destructive power of fire. However, it also acts as a catalyst for great beauty. Be it the whisky tumbler we watch Layne create before our eyes, to the blend of whisky we have in our hands; a whisky rested in double-charred barrels imbuing it with the “hard fired” flavour, from which it takes its name.
So where is the connection between Hard Fired and the flame? Well, it all starts with the careful selection of American oak barrels by master craftsmen. From here, the barrels undergo a second bout of charring – a process known as hard firing. Each barrel is set alight, and the depth and level of char is delicately judged by the coopers, before it’s nosed by Ballantine’s Master Blender, Sandy Hyslop, who selects only the best barrels to be used. By charring the oak for a second time, a greater concentration of wood is exposed to the whisky, allowing it to develop a gently smoked flavour, along with absorbing the natural sweetness of the wood itself.
“We wanted to create a truly unique new blend of whisky and give people a new way to experience Ballantine’s. The classic Ballantine’s flavour has been transformed with our ‘hard firing’ process which produces a drink that is smoky yet smooth.”
~ Sandy Hyslop, Ballantine’s Master Blender
At the event, we’re shown the very flavours hidden in the oak that we’ve heard so much about. Global Brand Ambassador, Alex Robertson, hands Layne a piece of the charred oak barrel, onto which he drizzles molten glass. The wood ignites and you immediately smell butterscotch, before the heavy peaty aroma of the smoke takes over. And it’s exactly the same sensation when drinking it – even in the Old Fashioned cocktails we create with Ballantine’s resident mixologist, Fredrik Olsson. It’s subtly sweet, almost caramel, with a kick of burning wood to finish it off. Delicious.
Ballantine’s Hard Fired is available exclusively in(€24) across Europe following which it will be rolled out worldwide.