If you've been watching top shelf Scotch pricing lately, you would be forgiven for thinking they were selling bottles of actual liquid gold. The whisky market's explosive growth over the past decade has been a double edged sword. While the increase in demand has led to greater distribution and visibility, it's also created an arms race at the top end of whisky. Master of Malt has listings for nearly 200 bottles well over the $1,000 mark, and you have to dig past another 300ish before the price drops below $500. Ouch.
Enter the Tun 1401 from Balvenie. Offered at $250, it's a mind-blowing Scotch that can compete with whiskys at twice or even four times the price.
The Tun 1401 has had a series of releases since it was first introduced in 2010. Balvenie's Malt Master, David Stewart, selects some of his favorite rare casks from their oldest warehouses. The various casks then get married in the historic Tun 1401 for several months before bottling. Each release is unique, as they are all one-of-a-kind blends of malts ranging from approximately 20-50 years (Balvenie doesn't release the exact ages of the blends). The current round, Batch 9, is a marriage of eleven ex-bourbon casks and three sherry butts and comes in at 98.6 proof, and it's a work of art.
This is a whisky that rewards taking your time. The scent opens up over a half hour in the glass, starting with ripe stone fruit, jammy citrus, spices, and a deep, rich sherried nuttiness supporting it all. The flavor is absolutely huge, the sherry blending perfectly with leather and oak, and dark chocolate balancing out the honeyed malt nectar. I literally did not want to swallow this dram, it was such a pleasure just hanging out with a mouthful of the juice, letting the flavors develop, shift, and wash over me like a warm golden wave. The finish stays with you all night, deep and spicy.
It's hard to make the argument that a $250 bottle of Scotch is a value, but if any bottle is, it's the Tun 1401, paying you back every dollar in the glass.
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distilleries and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films as an independent producer in Brooklyn.
Tasting sample provided for review consideration.