This will probably shock no one, but I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded whisky enthusiasts for a long time. It’s a great way to connect with others that are passionate about whisky, but the larger communities can become a bit of an echo chamber with the same prevailing opinions being discussed ad nauseum. In the early 2010s, Balvenie’s Tun 1401 was on the radar of many whisky aficionados like myself. Tun 1401’s discontinuation and replacement with the Tun 1509 series in 2014 was met with disappointment from many people in the circles that I was a part of. We couldn’t see it at the time, but the entire industry was going through some major growing pains and brands were responding accordingly. Looking back now, I see exactly why things played out the way they did. Back then, though, it was yet another blow of disservice from a brand to their long-time, loyal whisky fans.
These jade-colored lenses made it extremely difficult for whisky enthusiasts to objectively evaluate Balvenie’s Tun 1509 releases on merit alone. Many reviews of the early batches had nice things to say about the whisky, but were almost always post-scripted with a comment about how Tun 1509 paled in comparison to Tun 1401. In retrospect, Tun 1509 was never really designed to be a direct replacement for Tun 1401. From a business perspective, scaling up the use of 35-40 year old barrels by 400% to reach a global audience every year would have quickly eaten away at Balvenie’s aged stocks. Tun 1509 was the smart move from an inventory perspective. It got a limited edition Balvenie—still comprised of older barrels—in the hands of whisky drinkers around the world. Now that the dust has settled on the 1509 series, I’ve been revisiting these batches with a fresh perspective and I’ve been surprised by how much better the early batches are compared to my initial analyses all those years ago.
Batch 2 in particular received some harsh words upon initial release so I was really looking forward to revisiting this expression. The second batch of Tun 1509 contains whisky from 23 American Oak barrels and 9 European Sherry casks. I’ve heard rumblings that the whisky in this batch is all at least 20 years old but can’t confirm that and its officially a non-aged statement bottle. 8,500 bottles of Tun 1509 Batch 2 were released worldwide in 2015 at a cask strength of 50.3% ABV.
|Nose||Orange blossom, caramel, heather, toasted marshmallow, cherry jolly rancher, a bit of light brown sugar, a slight lactic note. Water brings out the sherry cask influence: some chocolate, black cherry, and raisins.|
|Taste||Honey, baked apples, allspice, rich toasted oak, orange marmalade, vanilla, hint of prunes, blackberry, grapefruit peel, cinnamon. With water, dried figs, a more tannic oak, pepper, and more orange influence.|
|Finish||Some nice, deep oak up front, Oloroso nuttiness, more allspice, sugar cone, maraschino cherry. Water adds notes of dry spice, walnut, toasted bread, caramel, coconut, and clove.|
|Overall Thoughts||As far as the early Tun 1509 batches go, this release a bit of an outlier in unusual ways. It drinks like it’s less sherry-forward even though 49% of the whisky in this batch came from ex-sherry casks (compared to just 33% ex-sherry cask whisky in Batch 1). The interplay between the two different cask types is MOSTLY integrated, but something is keeping it from a “seamless” integration of flavors. It’s a nice offering from The Balvenie that rivals much of what the distillery is putting out today but given the opportunity, I'd take Batches 1, 3, and 4 over this one.|