About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Monday, 23 September 2013


This has never been done before...

A tasting with all the currently released 8 batches of Balvenie TUN 1401s.
Until now - September 21st 2013 in Aarhus, Denmark.

It all started out with the Danish Balvenie anorak Peter Lading playing with the thought of tasting a few of the batches head-to-head but it soon evolved into all batches except batch 1... and after consulting a couple of fellow anoraks, a decision to include the very exclusive, and now very expensive, batch 1 was taken.

Stylish TUN 1401 shot by Peter Lading
So I'll start by thanking Peter Lading, Benny Uldall and the organisational elf Al Jones for this amazing opportunity to try all 8 batches. To top things off, Balvenie's Global Brand Ambassador Sam Simmons had agreed to fly in from London to host the tasting as well.

So whats the story behind these bottlings to begin with... and why is it called TUN 1401?

Sam Simmons © The Malt Desk
The TUN 1401-series was originally done as a malt blending job by the Balvenie Master Blender David Stewart to help the distillery to use maturing single casks that may not usually fit the normal Balvenie character or to allow the use of casks that do have the Balvenie character but have gone underproof (less than 40% abv).

TUN 1401 is the 2000 liter vessel in which this series undergoes its marrying of spirit - usually 3-4 months as with all other Balvenie as well. This allows for the whisky settle and interact with each other before finally being bottled.

So is this it? 8 batches and we're done? No, Sir! More are to come... Batch 9 is on its way to the stores shortly and Batch 10 will soon be marrying in the tun.

Balvenie was surprised as to the popularity of these bottlings and will, to try and satisfy demand in the future, see if its possible to style of these bottling, but doing them with 70's-90's vintages and in larger batches, maybe adding in some 60's and 80's underproof casks.

...but down to the whisky... I only too a few notes on each one, as this IMO was very much about enjoying this rare opportunity, but I'll try relay my experience as best I can and of course, tell you about my favourite(s).

Warm up dram:

The Balvenie Portwood 1989 40%

  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 48,1% - Batch 1, Distillery only, 336 bottles:
A vatting of 6 casks - 4 American oak cask and 2 European oak sherry casks

Orange, honey, old mellow oak, barley juice, vanilla just lovely and incredibly well balanced

  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 50,6% - Batch 2, 2226 bottles (Europe, Asia & South Africa):
A vatting of 10 casks - 7 American oak casks and 3 European oak sherry casks

Alot more sherry influence, varnish notes, orange chocolate, nutmeg, deeper and more spicy, nutty and dried fruit, very drying

  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 50,3% - Batch 3, 1800 bottles (US only):
A vatting of 10 casks - 7 American oak casks and 3 European oak sherry casks

Carries some of the notes of batch 1, but with just a little more sherry, strong cinnamon, nutmeg - very oak spicy but never going over the top - delicious!

  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 50,4% - Batch 4, 2500 bottles (Travel Retail):
A vatting of 10 casks - 7 American oak casks and 3 European oak sherry casks

Lighter and initially less expressive, getting massively honeyed and vanilla'ed, along with some lemony notes - good, but not the best so far...

The Balvenie TUN 1401, batches 1-4, September 21st 2013 © The Malt Desk
  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 50,1% - Batch 5, 2862 bottles (Europe only)
A vatting of 9 casks - 5 American oak casks and 4 European oak sherry casks
Incredible sherry mellow, sherry style as clean as they come, IMO, this could be any old sherried Speyside whisky and it certainly tastes like something I've tried before. Very good though, no doubt about that - just not very distinct!
  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 49,8% - Batch 6, 2500 bottles (US only)
A vatting of 9 casks - 7 American oak casks and 2 European oak sherry casks
Orange peel, vanilla, honey, ginger and nutmeg, caramel, oak spices - lots of wood in this one
  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 49,2% - Batch 7 (Travel retail)
A vatting of 9 casks - 7 American oak casks and 2 European oak sherry casks
Spicy European oak notes in this one despite it only being 2 cask in this vatting. Dried fruits, cinnamon, a little clove, chocolate, coffee, sweet wood sap (resinous)
  • The Balvenie TUN 1401 50,2% - Batch 8 2700 bottles (UK only)
A vatting of 12 casks - 9 American oak casks and 3 European oak sherry casks
Again lovely clean sherry and honey, spicy edge, floral hints, almost Highland Park style sherry here, wood polish and fruit.  Orange peel too as in batch 6 along with cinnamon and creamy toffee - great stuff!

The Balvenie TUN 1401, batches 5-8, September 21st 2013 © The Malt Desk

What a lineup! But we weren't done yet - 3 cask samples were yet to come :-O
  • 1992 cask#4380 53,4%
Heavy sherry style Balvenie, seems not to deliver more than some heavy sherry notes at this point, but my tastebuds are getting pretty tired by now...
  • 1973 cask#8556 47,2%
Pleasant style older whisky, very much on the freshly baked Danish spice cake - very nice!
  • 1964 cask#10379 33,2% (underproof)
A sample brought along to show how underproof whisky can be and this also carried a style of what I'd call oriental spices and something I'd certainly not associate with The Balvenie - fun to try!

Balvenie Cask Samples, 1992, 1973 and 1964, September 21st 2013 © The Malt Desk

Finally, a conclusion to sensory overload afternoon of September 21st 2013...
I'll not be scoring these whiskies, but I will tell you that this is all very, very good whisky!!
Instead, I'll just tell you which batches I had 1, 2 and 3...
  1. Batch 1
  2. batch 3
  3. batch 8
What a privilege it was to participate - Thanks again to Peter, Benny, Al and Sam Simmons!
(oh, if only all NAS whisky tasted like this) ;-)

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