The Balvenie TUN 1401 gets a new sibling?

The Balvenie Tun 1509 and other new offerings from William Grant & Sons

It looks like the good folks at William Grant & Sons have been rather busy of late. If these label approvals are anything to go by, we might be able to expect a couple of new offerings from two of their stalwart distilleries, plus a well-aged offering from one of their a rarely seen, long-closed distilleries.

The Balvenie TUN 1509

First up is The Balvenie TUN 1509 – a younger brother to the fabled TUN 1401 perhaps?


‘Younger’ is purely my own speculation. But given the average age of the various TUN 1401 batches is often around the 30 year mark, I can’t imagine The Balvenie would be releasing another vatted malt into their line-up that was any older.

We’ve seen nine batches from the TUN 1401 series now and the Taiwanese exclusive TUN 1858 has also seen two releases over the last few years. So what to make of this latest release? A third permanent offering in the revered TUN series? A replacement for the others? Your guess is as good as mine, but there’s one thing we can be fairly sure of, and that’s the fact that this will fly off shelves.

Glenfiddich ‘The Original’

This next one sounds like an interesting concept. As you’ll read on the label, Glenfiddich looks to be releasing a new no age statement expression inspired by their original Straight Malt. If you’re unsure of the significance, in 1963 the Glenfiddich Straight Malt was pretty much the first single malt whisky to be actively branded as such and exported around the world.


Although label details have only recently been released, I came across this curious blog post which indicates that this project may have been in the works for a number of years. Was the Glenfiddich ‘The Original’ tested on distillery visitors under the working title of Glenfiddich ‘Retro’? It certainly sounds like it!

Ladyburn ‘More than 40 years old’

If you’ve never heard of Ladyburn, there’s a pretty good reason for that. The final casks of this Lowland malt were laid down 39 years ago, back in 1975. Adding to that, the distillery itself was operational for a mere 9-10 years in total.


From what I can tell, the last official release was a 1973 Ladyburn bottled back in the year 2000 at 50.4% ABV. Aside from a handful of independent bottlings since (sometimes under the name Rare Ayrshire), this is malt that’s rarely seen indeed.

Nice to see a new official bottling of Ladyburn from William Grant & Sons, but some might find the 40% ABV a tad disappointing (if indeed, that’s what it ends up being).

The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask

Official launch, Sydney Australia

Attention Australian Balvenie fans – The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask has just been launched locally!

In true William Grant & Sons style, this was cause for celebration, so on a recent Monday evening, celebrate we did. Where should The Balvenie hold an event for the release of a rum-finished whisky? A specialist rum bar of course, so it was off to Sydney’s The Cuban Place/Parke Davis.

Balvenie Craft Bar

Guests approaching the venue knew they were in the right spot when they spotted this hand-crafted Balvenie sign at the entrance and were greeted by the sound of authentic rasta-sounding steel kettle- drums.

Parke Davis

Descending the half dozen stairs into the swanky sub-ground Parke Davis, we were greeted by our ever consummate host – The Balvenie’s Sydney brand ambassador – Mr James Buntin.


James’ partner in crime for the evening would be Melbourne-based Dick Blanchard, who I’d had the pleasure of meeting a few day’s prior at the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championships (post to follow shortly).

It should be said that Dick has a knack for crafting some rather special whisky-based cocktails and had put together this Balvenie-inspired duo to get the evening started.


A handful of friendly hellos were exchanged before a handful of Balvenie was received, your choice of a cocktail or perhaps something from The Balvenie’s core range? The 12 or 17 year old double wood, the all new 14 year old Caribbean Cask or perhaps a healthy dram of the luscious 21 year old Port Wood (if you happened to bump into the right person!) They were all on offer and the crowd made a good dent in their stocks!

I started with a Balvenie-inspired Dark & Stormy and Parke Davis’ bartenders made short work of mixing a couple down.

Balvenie Stormy

Oh yeah, they’re also pretty efficient at pouring a mean Beachcomber or two…


Balvenie – a story of craftsmanship

The Balvenie don’t just place pride in their liquid, but also in the craftsmanship that brings it to life. From the partial onsite maltings, to the in-house cooperage that prepares their barrels, they take a very hands-on approach to whisky making. As such, they also display an appreciation for those who exude the same passion in their own craft.


To really highlight that connection, The Balvenie had invited along Charles Moller to present a short, but genuinely fascinating, intro into the world of crafting steel kettle-drums. It’s not the first time The Balvenie has been involved with local artisans either, setting up a craft bar in Melbourne’s famous laneways back in November 2013.

Release the rum-finish

We were here for a particular reason though and that was to see the official release of this fine dram into the local Australian market.

Balvenie trio

So with a short enthusiastic toast from the captivating Mr B. we welcomed The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask to Australia.

Balvenie toast

So what’s it like?

In short, pretty damn enjoyable. So enjoyable in fact that I totally forgot to jot down any tasting notes on the night.. bugger.. The geniuses at Balvenie obviously figured as much and had the forethought to but together these goodie bags, complete with a crafty hand-labeled sample.

Goodie bag

After mulling this one over for a while, I got sweet syrupy malt on nose, layered with brown sugar. Whether the label is prompting me to look for it, I’m not sure, but I also get some golden rum notes too. Searching a touch longer, it’s not hard to find the classic honeyed-apple Balvenie notes buried underneath. A very round and perfectly approachable nose.


Fairly thin on the palate and immediately sweet, yet drying at the same time. Oaky wood spice develops quickly along with bitter dark chocolate and a hint of orange pith. These tart drying notes are nicely balanced by a rounded sweetness, which almost comes across as confectionary like at some points (think lolly bananas and fresh marshmallows). Add to that some hints of vanilla and a noticeable rum note, both of which come out toward the back of the palate and remain on the finish which turns oaky and drying once more.

I think the main take away from this is to not expect a rum flavoured whisky. It’s not a flavouring (thank goodness for that) – it’s a finish – one which builds on the underlying approachable character of Balvenie, creating something a bit more special.

Having also tried the 14 year old Cuban Cask, I admit that I did notice a difference between the two and the Caribbean Cask is certainly my pick of the duo.

Warehouse 24

If you liked the look of this event, you too can get involved!

Whilst some distilleries have mailing lists, or token membership groups, The Balvenie’s Warehouse 24 program genuinely makes an effort to connect with their fans the world over. Regular competitions are mostly open to international entrants and special events are held in major cities everywhere.


In fact, invites to the Caribbean Cask launch were extended to Australian Warehouse 24 members – just for being members! Whether you’re reading this in Australia or abroad, it’s worth checking out.

Where, when and how much?

The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask is bottled at 43% ABV will be available in Australia from the finest liquor retailers from August at a recommended price of AU$115.

Balvenie 14

Big thanks to The Balvenie and William Grant & Sons for hosting such an enjoyable evening. And to James, farewell from your Australian fans, thanks for all the laughs and we hope you have a blast in the UK.

Just what the Doctor ordered

The Balvenie tasting, hosted by Dr Sam Simmons

The other week, the good folks at the Oak Barrel in Sydney  managed to secure Dr Whisky himself for a free tasting session of The Balvenie.

Who’s this Dr fellow? Sam Simmons (aka Dr. Whisky) is The Balvenie’s Global Brand Ambassador and just happened to be in Sydney for a whirlwind two-day tour that included no less than four events. Good thing he likes the stuff.


Walking in there, I think my brain naively told me ‘whisky ambassador? Must = Scotsman’, so I did a bit of a double-take when Sam spoke and I realized he’s actually a Canuk – and a genuinely funny and down-to-earth one at that!

The informal atmosphere of the Oak Barrel really lent itself to some great discussion and banter and both Sam and James (from William Grant & Sons) were genuinely knowledgeable, good sports. Bravo Balvenie, bravo!

What the Doctor prescribed


First up was The Balvenie 15 year old Single Barrel, (cask #10786 bottle #317 for the boffins out there) and as expected, it was on form. Big Balvenie honey and toasted vanilla notes with a hint of banana on the nose. Creamy on the palate with that wonderfully feisty, warming finish that comes with the higher ABV of 47.8%.

This was followed by the (new to Australia) 17 year old double-wood, which has spent 17 years in American Oak (aka ex-bourbon) barrels, followed by around nine months in European Oak ex-sherry casks. The 17 really comes across as a richer, more succinct version of the classic 12 year old double-wood and the extra 3% ABV (it’s bottled at 43%) is a lovely touch.

Rounding out the trio was the decadent 21 year old Port Wood. This expression starts life in American Oak, before being transferred to ex-port pipes for around four months. In the scheme of 21 years, four months doesn’t sound like a long time, but we’re told that the pipes are saturated with a vatting of some of the finest vintage port out there (~30 year old port, I believe) The richness and depth is fantastic, especially for a 40% ABV bottling. You get the classic Balvenie honey and creaminess mixed with wonderful rich, red-fruit notes and some chewy oak.

Really hoping I get the chance to review each of these in a bit more detail at a later date.

That wasn’t all though

As if that wasn’t enough for a Friday arvo tasting, there was still one more surprise in store. Sam was kind enough to bring along a 40 year old cask strength Balvenie, hand-filled by The Balvenie’s master distiller himself, Mr David Stewart. This was a money-can’t-buy whisky, so it was pretty special indeed.


After four decades in European Oak casks, the ‘73 had taken on an amazing mahogany colour and had a rich, full nose to match. At a natural strength of 55.2%, it was a heavy hitter, but still perfectly drammable (is that even a word?) without the need for water. It was incredibly complex and not overly oaked, which was quite a surprise considering how long it had spent in a cask. A seriously stunning whisky.

What’s remarkable is that despite the four different finishes and four different ages, you could really tell that these were all Balvenie. That marvelous creamy honeyed character really carried through all four expressions in its own way.

No doubt Sam’s schedule would have been pretty exhausting, but he still made time for everyone and didn’t miss a beat. A big thank you is in order for Sam and William Grant & Sons for their time and to the Oak Barrel, for hosting a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible tasting.