The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 5 & Batch 8
These are quite legendary, am I right? A total of nine batches of The Balvenie Tun 1401 were put out over the years, each one of high quality, and better yet, pretty affordable to boot. Today I’ll pitch two of those batches against each other, batch 5 and batch 8, both of which were released for the European market.
While technically the Tun 1401s were NAS-whiskies, the make-up of all the vattings is general knowledge, and just a simple Google search away.
Batch 5 was bottled in 2012 and consists of three bourbon hogsheads (from 1966, 1972 and 1973), two bourbon barrels (from 1974 and 1991) and four European oak sherry butts (from 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975). That’s some seriously old whisky.
The casks used for batch 8, which was bottled in 2013, are pretty much as impressive. Nine American oak casks (1970, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1991) and three European oak sherry butts (1970, 1971, 1973).
Nose: Polished leather, wood varnish, menthol and tobacco leaves. Shows some lighter touches a little later on, with fresh apples, orange juice, as well as some floral touches, accompanied by honey. The balance is incredible.
Taste: Lovely citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons and pink grapefruit, but also varnish, leather and menthol, with a whiff of smoke. Some notes of cinnamon, as well as a gentle peppery edge. There’s honey here too, and the oak is undeniable.
Finish: Spicy and oaky notes at first, but then lingers on fruits for a long time.
Nose: Cacao powder, dark chocolate, burnt honey butter and black tea. Next up is a whiff of cherry syrup, plums and ripe banana, as well as some old damp wood, vanilla and furniture polish. This too, is balanced to perfection.
Taste: Rather syrupy, and a lot more sherry influence than Batch 5. Juicy plums, raisins and strawberries, but also some spicier notes of ginger and cinnamon. Quite a lot of leather, and resinous too. Finally there’s dark chocolate, and just a whiff of menthol. Somewhat bitter.
Finish: Lingers on menthol and spices for a long time. Drying.
Two deliciously awesome whiskies. They share similarities, but they are certainly not similar. Unexpectedly, Batch 8 is more sherried, despite there being relatively less sherry matured whisky included in this vatting. Batch 5 displays a little more of that mature fruitiness you really only encounter in long aged whiskies, which is what pushes it over the edge for me.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.