Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 4

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 50.4% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
Another one off the bucket list. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to get hold of this when it first came out? I mean by the time I managed to locate two stragglers sitting on a shelf somewhere in Eastern Europe the price on this had literally tripled.

Luckily for me news doesn’t travel as fast to that part of the globe and I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of these bottles at a fairly decent price. Now when I look at various auctions I’m thankful I picked them when I had the chance.

I’m pretty sure by now you know what the Tun is. It’s actually a massive holding vat in Warehouse 24 that Master Blender David Stewart employed to mix and marry a variety of vintage Balvenies for up to three months to create this special series.

Batch No 4 consists of seven bourbon aged Balvenies and three sherry with spirit rumoured to be distilled as far back as 1966 and as early as 1988 making this quite a special little expression.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 50.4% ABV

Nose: If there’s anything David Stewart does is craft an ingenious nose. Every time. Burnt toast. Sherry. Lots of clove. Touch of sweetness. But with a sea saltiness too. Tobacco leaf. Toasted oak. Let it sit and a mild floral fragrance starts coming through. Green melon. Wild red berries. This is a solid nose. Reminded me of the Balvenie 30. 23/25

Palate: So strong. Robust. Coats the entire mouth. Quite dry yet chewy at the same time. Black peppercorns. Cinnamon. Blood oranges. Bitter chocolate. Wait… Lindt Intense Orange. With the orange not so intense. That toasted oak again. Get’s salty mid-palate. And now comes with a spicy betel nut leaf. Not as sweet as the nose suggested. Quite crisp with the poised oakiness a testament to it’s age and quality. 23/25

Finish: What the hell? This one stayed in my mouth long after I had washed the glasses and kept away the bottle. Clove. Betel nut. Again quite savory. Almost masala like. Good masala, mind you. Touch of oils. Bitter chocolate. 24/25

Overall Comments: This is a superb example of vintage whisky done right. You can smell the elegance a mile off. The mouthfeel is arresting. But it’s the finish that did it for me. Stayed for eons on the lips. There was a lot of unashamed smacking going on after I was done. Find it. Drink it.

Rating: 93

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Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 1

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47.1% | Colour: Full Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

Review
Balvenie is my go to expression when I’m not sure what I want to be drinking. I’ll normally pour myself one as I sit down and ponder. I find that their dependable and comfortingly familiar flavors help me get in the mood for a drink.

The Balvenie 17 Sherry Oak and the 21 Portwood were one of my first ever single malt purchases and what excellent purchases they turned out to be. A solid core range with classic Speyside flavors Balvenie doesn’t give itself a chance to go wrong very often.

The Tun series is quite a nice little concept where David Stewart (Master Blender of Balvenie) picks out a bunch of Sherry butts and Bourbon barrels and marries them in a much larger vessel (the Tun) for a few months before bottling them.

The first in this line was the Tun 1401 which was the name of the 2000 litre vessel in which Mr Stewarts selection was left to marry. So insanely popular was this series that Balvenie was compelled to knock out no less than nine different batches. Each one causing a minor uproar every time it appeared on auction sites.

The next was the Tun 1509 which is an 8000 litre vessel. For Batch 1 Mr Stewart went with a total of 42 different spirits; 35 from ex-bourbon barrels and seven from large European sherry butts. Each cask number written on the label – much to my appreciation. The whisky was left to swim around and get accustomed to each other for a few months before seeing the light of day.

The much larger output may have successfully killed the second-hand / auction market for the Tun series and for that I’m quite glad because the 1401 had reached prices of stupidly epic proportions. But that may not be the only reason for it’s relative lack of demand. For while the 1401 batches were by and large quite tasty this particular expression is not quite in that league.

My sample is from a brand new bottle with a strength of 47.1%

Nose: Intense sherry. Warming. Clove. Endearing honey. Peanut butter. Jam. Bread pudding. Soaked in rum. Stewed apples. Vanilla. Creme brûlée. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. Roasted almonds. Dried figs. Raisins. Hint of coal smoke. When I first nosed this I literally swooned. Such a beautifully harmonious balance of aromas. This is what whisky should smell like. (24/25)

Palate: Such a creamy mouthfeel when it starts off. But then an unwanted bitterness creeps in and layers all the flavors. Coffee. Cinnamon. All spice. Oak. Quite savory unlike the nose. Blood oranges. Unsweetened plums. Maybe the nose set it up way too high and the palate just could not compete. What ever the case I felt a little let down at the lack of complexity here. (21/25)

Finish: Medium. Savory. Oak. Cinnamon. Oily. Not the best. (21/15)

Overall Comments: I wish this whisky was sweeter. The nose promises a different ride to the one you actually get. Which is a little sad. It’s not terrible, mind you, but I was so looking forward to this blowing me out of the water. And at around 250GBP per bottle it had better.

Rating: 87