Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Speyside Single Malt of the Year

January 28th, 2013

10303-TUN1401-Batch5_ComboLRBalvenie Tun 1401 Batch 5, 50.1%, £161

Another rich year in Speyside made this a particularly tricky choice, but I chose this Balvenie not just for its quality but for what it says about the whisky industry today and as a tribute to the 50 years that Balvenie’s malt master, David Stewart, has given to it.

Balvenie remains one of the great enigmas of single malt, in that it is known, but unknown. You can’t call it a cult anymore, but neither can you say it is mainstream. It does its own thing, walks its own path. It absorbs all types of wood and retains its individuality, it has power but is never aggressive. It is identifiable but hard to pin down.

This was the fifth release from an ongoing series of vattings by David, in which he takes a selection of casks of different ages and types and marries them together in Tun 1401. This particular example saw four sherry butts from the 70s being mingled with five hogsheads ranging in age from 1966 to 1991.

The result was a single malt of obvious maturity; it had the aroma of fruits at the moment of decay, where rancio is beginning to appear, where Balvenie’s honey (manuka in this case) mixes with the darkest of fruits and notes of cigar.

And there was no age statement. It spoke of how blending works, of different characters being brought together to produce a dazzling result, of how the fragrant and light has its counterpoint in the raisined and tannic, of how it is flavor that matters and not a number on the label.

No Age will become increasingly important, and if they’re of this standard then they should be welcomed.  And, my dears, at £161 this was a steal.  — Dave Broom

Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Islay Single Malt of the Year will be announced tomorrow.

7 Responses to “Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award: Speyside Single Malt of the Year”

  1. […] Whisky Advocate’s 19th Annual Award winners are being announced on the Whisky Advocate blog. Today’s winner: Speyside Single Malt of the Year: Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 5, 50.1%, £161. Read the full article on the Whisky Advocate blog. […]

  2. Pat says:

    I’ve had 3 and 6. There are batch variations for sure as 6 has fewer sherry casks. 5 is probably more like 3 perhaps. Overall find these to be superb. No nosing glass required whatsoever. Very hard not to quaff. Here is the actual vatting of 3 in action. Wait for the surprise around 2:00m – slurrppp!!!

    • Tim Read says:

      Pat – I’ve had batches 3, 5, and 6 and agree on the supreme drinkability of batch 3 – one of the very best I’ve ever had.

      Batch 5 and 6 for me were quite similar. Less sherry influence for sure as you noted; I found that the newer batches had a light tobacco character as well. Not quite the stunner that #3 was, but ferociously great whisky even considering the $220-240 asking price.

  3. OudErnest says:

    U.S. releases for at least one winner, please!

  4. Scott says:

    I’ve not had the chance to try the Balvenie batches, but I’ve always been a big fan of Balvenie and prefer it to the other Speysides. I’m going to have to dig deep and get myself a bottle of this.

  5. Tadas A says:

    Does anybody have a list of whiskies in each Tun 1401 batch:
    Whiskies used
    Ages, distillation dates for each component
    % of content used per volume for each component?

  6. Edward Willey says:

    @ Tadas, let me see if I can find the list for Batch 3. The average age of the casks was 38 years. Not bad compared to the pricing for Balvenie 30.

    @ All -, I just can’t see this as THE Speyside of the year. I didn’t get to try 4 (my friends did), but I have had 3, 5, and 6. If 6 is a shadow of 3, 5 is the quirky aunt of 6, who puts on too much funky perfume and burns incense in the house. When the bottle of 5 was opened, it was a cinnamon bomb. It got a little more palatable after a week or so. Still, none of us found it to be worth the money, given what it took to get the bottle into the States. All of our group have decided to guard our remaining Batch 3 bottles with our lives, placing them in the back of the closet along with our 2005/2006 Ardbeg Tens (which taste more like 17/18 YO due to what they put in the bottle), Airigh Nam Beist, old HPs (the red box 30….YUM), and Laphroaig 15.

    As a point of reference, the 2010 Diageo special release of Glen Spey 21, which we revisited this Christmas, objectively blew away the Batch 5 and 6. Food for thought.

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