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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Happy Eight-er: The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch Eight (8) SIngle Malt Scotch Whisky

This might look like Neil (top) and Joel (bottom), but really it's the movie poster. Honest.

There are elements to writing where, sometimes, inspiration just doesn’t hit. Reporting fact, you can’t go too wrong: you already have a narrative of facts set out in front of you, the skill is ordering it for the reader, to make it make sense, even if there is no conclusion. With creative writing, you’re faced with a blank page and off you go. If there is nothing there, then there is little else you can do than wait. And wait. And wait some more.

How does one get around this blank slate, this empty void, this deserted page? Well, if  you’re the brilliant Coen brothers, the movie writers/makers/producers (and a second nod in as many weeks for one of the Coen brothers, Joel, who is also a writer on The Simpsons) then, when faced with this situation, you write a movie about it. Which is exactly what happened when, mid-way through writing their film Miller’s Crossing, the pair were hit with writers block. To clear the creative dam, they wrote Barton Fink, a story about a holywood scriptwriter inflicted with the same problem.

"We're only interested in one thing, Bart. Can you tell a story? Can you make us laugh? Can you make us cry? Can you make us want to break out in joyous song? Is that more than one thing? Okay!" – Jack Lipnick, Barton Fink

Often, it can feel a little like this, when sitting down to write this blog. We’re lucky- we have facts we can report. But who wants a repetition of what’s written on the label of a bottle? If you want that, go and read the label on the bottle. We have tasting notes- that’s always a help. But writing the rest... that can be a real challenge at times.

However, let’s face it, the best stories told are by the whiskies from the casks. Be they three years and a day old, or somewhere approaching four decades of age, these are the true story-tellers of the business; they’re the raconteurs who will leave you wanting more, posing questions and generally leaving you thinking that you’ve had a wonderful time. They are the true marketers, the true brand ambassadors, the stars of any tasting. Simple, yet complex at the same time, it is their richness of experience which you have paid for, their headline slot the turn for which you wait.

The release of the new Balvenie Tun 1401 seems to have become an annual staple in the whisky calendar, and what a good thing that is. Not a duffer yet  in the already eight strong line of releases, it started with just 300 bottles of the Batch 1 (now an true ‘investment grade’ whisky, whatever that means) which we reviewed here (even looking at each of the invidivual casks which went in to it) and this week saw the release of the latest batch.

The Tun holds around 2000 litres and each batch is created my their Malt Master, David Stewart. As this is made up of 12 casks, the most yet (ranging from the 1970’s up to 1991), with three of the casks being European oak and the rest coming from America, it’s outturn is around 2500 bottles worldwide.

The Balvenie – Tune 1401 – Batch 8 – 50.2% abv  - £220 available here

Nose: A big nose crammed with rich apricot jam, honey, freshly cut ginger, toffee, cinnamon and liquorice. It is a heavy nose; big and rich and befitting of a well aged whisky.

Palate: Ginger cake, very rich and oily honey. Hints of Four Roses single barrel bourbon coming through (big red cherries and hot strawberry jam) with fresh vanilla pods. Some cinnamon.

Finish: Toffee apples, spices and that honey note again.

Overall: This is not a slugger of a dram. The Balvenie makes some very quaffable whiskies (their doublewood is a whisky you can pretty much throw the cork away on, and their new 15yo single barrel release, reviewed here, isn’t far behind) but this is a totally different beast: still very much The Balvenie, but it is big and rich and demands you take time over it. The sort of dram you want to take a lot of time over. It also develops well with water, so if you do get hold of a bottle and decide to open it (go on, it’ll be worth it!), then please, please, please.... find some time to enjoy this dram.

Tun 1401 batch 8 is whisky which has a simple story; it lets the liquid do the talking. Throughout this range there is continued excellent consistency from The Balvenie. There is a reason why these are popular at auction: they’ve managed to get the balance between collectability and drinkability absolutely spot on.

Get in the queue now for batch 9...