Balvenie’s now famous Tun series was launched in 2010 with the Tun 1401 (A tun being the name for a large marrying vat). Nine batches later, Balvenie Master Distiller David Stewart moved to an even bigger marrying vessel – the Tun 1509. The latest version, launched in the middle of 2017 was not without early controversy – somehow, a small batch (around 800 bottles) of whisky which had been stored in the Tun had mistakenly been bottled and distributed in several regions (The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and several travel retail outlets). Whilst it was single malt from the distillery and produced at the correct strength, it was not in fact meant to be bottled as ‘Tun’ whisky. Cue, slightly embarrassing recall notice.
Batch 4 of the Tun 1509 is comprised of 23 single casks: 13 ex-bourbon and 10 ex-sherry with the youngest being 21 years of age. The 23 casks are dumped and then married in the Tun for five months, then to be bottled without chill-filtration at 51.7% ABV.
Nose: Opening with a very pleasant mix of honey, poached pears, orange peels and dusty spices, this proceeds to deliver aromas of malts, golden tobacco, and lightly toasted cereals. There’s an interesting slight mineral note here – part citric, part wet slate. The addition of a few drops of water provides enhancement to the fruits, increasingly sweetness, it also brings some of the cask forward adding oaky wood notes, and a touch of bitterness to an otherwise orchard-sweet experience.
Taste: A silky and juicy arrival that emphasises pears first, moving swiftly to ripe peaches and nectarines. Honey and creamy fudge is played off against both spicing (ginger and pepper) as well as ex-bourbon led wood flavours – part sour, part bitter and in places, a little bit jarring against the fruit elements. A few drops of water (I’d not recommend being overly liberal as you’ll lose the viscosity) adds some toffee sweetness and ripe apple, but allows the oak the upper-hand - a touch of vanilla (nice), a little bundle of astringent tannins (less nice).
Finish: Medium in length, with ginger spicing, apples and bitter wood.
This batch of the Balvenie Tun has a very pleasant nose, silky arrival and plenty of juicy fruit character. But, along with it, there are some overly woody notes, that certainly feel much more ex-bourbon-led than ex-sherry, regardless of the composition of the cask marriage. It’s still a very tasty whisky indeed, but £240 feels a very steep price for the overall quality offered here. These Tun’s seem to be getting gradually younger and more ex-bourbon in emphasis, whilst their prices creeps steadily upwards – I’m not sure that’s a recipe that will maintain the high reputation of this series over the long-term.