The Balvenie’s malt master, David Stewart, has been in the whisky industry for a long, long time – nearly six decades, to be exact. As you might imagine, with a career that lengthy has come many innovations, experiments, and firsts.
For example, The Balvenie’s core expression, DoubleWood, was one of the first single malts to use wood finishing; in this case, the whisky rests in sherry casks for nine months after 12 years maturing in American oak. Before bottling, the whiskies from various casks that go into each batch spend several months in large wooden tuns where the flavors are married. This technique is also at the core of The Balvenie Tun 1509, an ultra-premium annual release that is now in its sixth batch.
Tun 1509 is located in the distillery’s warehouse 24, and is filled with whisky from a variety of aged casks that Stewart personally selects for each release (the first release of Tun 1509 was in 2014, and there were a few years of Tun 1401 releases before that).
“Tun 1509… is only used for this particular expression,” said Stewart. “Once the tun is filled, we will ensure that the constituents are thoroughly mixed together and this whisky will be left to marry for at least three months prior to bottling. We are unique in the scotch whisky industry in using these marrying tuns to allow our many different expressions to settle for this three-month period prior to being bottled.”
Like previous releases, Batch 6 is non-chill filtered and bottled at 50.4 percent ABV, but the makeup of each batch is different. This year’s release consists of whisky from 21 casks of three different types: five sherry refill butts, seven DoubleWood refill sherry butts (previously used to finish DoubleWood before being refilled with new make whisky), and nine ex-bourbon barrels.
“Each new batch of the Tun is created in our sample room prior to filling the whisky into the tun,” said Stewart. “During this process we will match the one that we are working on with previous releases in order to create a different taste sensation. This will involve using different ages and combination of cask types.”
So how does this new batch of Balvenie Tun 1509 taste? According to Stewart, there are notes of honey, maple syrup, and candied orange on the palate, with a sweet and malty finish full of oak and spice. This is an ultra-premium whisky, priced at $400, which limits its accessibility for some. But Stewart believes that the luxury whisky market is currently very strong.
“There is a great demand for very limited releases of aged single malts,” he said. “There are so many single malt collectors around the world, especially in Asia, that I don't see is this demand diminishing.”
The Balvenie Tun 1509 Batch 6 will be available in 16 countries, including the US, as well as travel retail locations for an SRP of $399.99.