While I have had many opportunities to explore Balvenie’s core range products (which I have thoroughly enjoyed), never wasI presented the occasion to sample any of Balvenie’s special or one-time release whiskies.
Seeing some of these on shelves, on Instagram and online reviews left me curious, to say the least, and thirsting, to be more specific. However, most of these products come with limited availability and with quite proud price tags. To date, as I mention, I had not had an opportunity to enjoy this range. This past weekend changed that.
Balvenie offers a special series of releases, referring to them as “From the Tun.” In Balvenie’s words, “The Balvenie has released three Tun series to date, Tun 1401, Tun 1858 and Tun 1509. Each instance is a rare interpretation of the marrying process and allows multiple casks over multiple decades to come together to create a unique whisky. Limited by the capacity of the tuns themselves, and greater than the sum of its constituent parts, Tun is a display of the Malt Master’s craft.”
While visiting a great friend dating back to middle school, I was offered a glass of Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 3. I couldn’t say no. And as you will learn below, “no” is not an acceptable response to this whisky.
This “tun” (a term referring to a large vessel for wine, spirits or other liquids, that equates to approximately 8 barrels or 250 gallons) is a blend of 31 different casks (sherry butts, American hogshead and refill American oak butts) that are each said to be between 23 and 27 years old. In 2016, 8,850 bottles were presented for world-wide distribution. It is the third batch in the Tun 1509 line.
Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 3 (52.2%) (NAS)
Nose: Incredible honey, caramel and fruit sweetness; citrus, dried apricot and raisins; baking spice; ash; oak; very little, if any, evidence of high proof.
Palate: Very rich in flavor, texture and warmth; more orange/citrus with dark fruit (plums, raisins, dark cherry); honey; caramel, vanilla and toffee; incredible baking spice that is well beyond but includes cinnamon, but also some white pepper; warm, as the higher proof coupled with the spice capture your taste buds; velvety mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium-long; dry oak sets in with additional sherry fruit finish; rich lingering spice.
Overall: There is nothing negative to say about this one, other than I can’t drink it every day. It is exceptional from start to finish, as you might expect from a $400 bottle. The nose is incredibly complex, with rich honey, fruit and spice notes, and without even a hint of high proof. Once it hits your mouth, this pour provides incredibly un-diluted flavors that really pop. Honey, fruit, caramel, toffee and spice coat your mouth, each taking its own turn, constantly morphing into different flavors. Warm spice and high proof (and some notable alcohol) catch your attention on every sip. And on the finish, a nearly perfect amount of dry (not quite bittering) oak offsets the rich sweetness, before the spice takes back over and finishes out the series. Throughout, it possess sherry influence without overwhelming otherwise quality whisky. I would highly recommend this one to anyone who will listen.
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.