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Monday, April 10, 2017

Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 Single Malt Whisky

The first time I experienced a Balvenie Tun 1401 I concluded that my scoring system was all screwed up. The whisky was so good, I realized I'd been handing out too many 90+ scores. Here was a genuinely A-grade whisky. The nose, the palate, the finish, all were worthy of hyperbole. Unfortunately, at that time the whisky retailed for $250. I refused (and continue to refuse) to spend $250 for any sort of liquid, so I never bought my own bottle of 1401. Now of course, that price seems quaint. Batch 3 is being flipped on the secondary market for four figures.

Thankfully, I have samples of four of the nine 1401 batches. Batch 3 seems to have received the greatest plaudits, and look I have (or had!) a sample of that very whisky.

Since it was my lovely wife's birthday this weekend, I've chosen to review this special whisky in honor of her.

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: damfino
Maturation: 7 ex-bourbon casks + 3 sherry butts
Limited Release: US release, 1800 bottles
Release Year: 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 50.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? Hopefully not
(Two-ounce sample purchased at a bar long before prices got crazier)

Its color is a reddish mahogany. The nose starts with dusty musty moldy dunnage casks. Cocoa and toffee. Tropical fruit and honey around the edges. Figs, rich tobacco and dried apricots. The palate has plenty of kick to it, considering how old the casks were rumored to be. Lots of stone fruits and bitter chocolate. Lime candy, toffee and a surprising malty note. Hints of smoke and dunnage. A huge finish. Loads of limes, grapefruits, cloves and bitter chocolate. Balance of salt and sweet. Hints of dunnage and metal.

Just a teensy bit of water...

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Vanilla, tobacco and oak spice in the nose. Smaller notes of toffee, honeycomb and dunnage. Lots of drying tannins on the palate now. More dark chocolate and cracked pepper than before. Limes, mint and a slight hoppy note. The finish is tangy, peppery, sweet, citrusy and still very long.

The "dusty musty moldy dunnage casks" note has become the direct line to my heart. I just love it. This batch of 1401 has it. Meanwhile, those three sherry butts totally overwhelm the seven bourbon casks. This is rich old sherry cask whisky through and through. It sticks the landing well too with its endless finish. It's definitely more than one step better than the Tun 1509 I've tried.

Curiously, it didn't take to water very well. All the oak compounds seemed to rush to the surface. It got less complex and lost most of its singular charm.

When neat, this is excellent whisky. But.

Perhaps I set my expectations too high. I thought this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime 95+ pointer. But it never busts through its big sherry character into something more singular. It's comparable in quality to the better 1990s GlenDronach single oloroso casks. There are some single sherry cask Springbanks that can match its quality. And I might even take this Whisky Doris Bunnahahbain over it.  That all being said, this is grand whisky, a real treat, something you won't regret having paid the original price tag for. If you've got, treasure it. If you don't, I wouldn't mourn what you're missing

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $1000+
Rating - 91 (neat only)