The Balvenie Tun 1401 was extremely popular among aficionados over its 9 batches, actually reaching cult status. The problem was that there was just not that much of it to go around…
A tenth batch was prepared by David Stewart but was scrapped as plans for 1509 were put into motion. Tun 1509 is four times as large as 1401 was, and batch 1 is made of 42 casks, 35 of which are ex bourbon casks and 7 are European oak sherry butts. Thus, on the assumption that a barrel is 195 liter and butt 500 (before the angels do their thing) we have a 2:1 ratio between the sherry and bourbon casks, whereas the late Tun 1401 was closer to a 1:1 ratio or even 70:30 for the sherry – as batch 5 was) and despite the actual size of the tun (8000 liters before being brought down to 47.5% ABV), this is a small batch with a planned annual release of this expression.
While photography inside warehouse 24 is prohibited, Daft_Hunk who is a very active Reddit’s /r/Scotch/ contributor managed to sneak a picture of the tun:
And my own somewhat fuzzy picture of my dram:
Before we get to the whisky itself I want to tell you that this expression is a geek wonderland. Not only are all the casks listed on the tube, there is a map that profiles each of the casks’ donation to the tun according to spice, oak, delicacy and sweetness. I took this picture of the map while I was tasting the whisky at The Whisky Show:
However, and there has to be one, of course, while sherry matured whisky content has decreased from over a half to about a third, the list price for this whisky has increased by 40% (from $250 to $350).
The Balvenie Tun 1509 (47.5%ABV, NCF, NC, NAS)
Appearance: Amber, with thick and slow legs.
Nose: Oranges, honey, vanilla and citrus blossom. The nose is very creamy and citrus-y.
Palate: Sweet candied orange peel, lemon cake and spices, with notes of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and whole peppercorns.
Linger: Citrus bitterness, some tartness on the inner cheek, allspice and a light sprinkle of pepper.
The Tun 1509 is an excellent whisky. Both delicate and full of flavor it’s layered and complex and is truly an excellent dram. It’s not, however, an outstanding one.
Is it a good value at $350? One indicator is my own answer to the question if I would buy it. Another is to see if William Grant and Sons was able to price it in a way that retains the full profit margin out of this line. If it sells in at auction in a year for $1000, the answer is no, but I doubt it will follow in Tun 1401’s footsteps in this sense. There’s just so much more of it available. So this is one of those expressions I actually look forward to seeing what they’ll command on the secondary market in a year, and I guess we’ll have an answer to that question…