I have never been a huge Balvenie fan and the biggest reason for going to this tasting to see what all the fuss is about, and to see Sam Simmons in the flesh. He’s supposed to be a rock star brand ambassador. With ‘the fuss’ I mean the recent set of releases from Tun 1401 of which I tasted none. I got a little bit more intrigued by the distillery when I got a small sip of the Balvenie 30 year old last year in The Hague (Thanks Wouter van Tol!).
This tasting was set up to honour the 50th anniversary of David Stewart. Therfore we tasted cask samples from all decades that he worked at the distillery. Quite special to be tasting stuff that is so rare. There was a sixth whisky as well, but that’s all below.
Balvenie 1964, 33.5%, European Oak Hogshead
Very old fashioned and light, with some leather and apples. Wood of fruit trees. Rather crisp for such an old whisky with pear icecream. A slight dryness follows. Way underproof for you who hadn’t noticed, but that didn’t really bother anyone.
Balvenie 1973, 47.3%, European Sherry cask
Full sherry with a light background of wood and confit fruit. There’s a spirity lightness to it that I find very surprising on a 39 year old whisky. Friendly with fresh peach and banana.
Balvenie 1980, 42.3%, American Oak
Loads of tropical fruit with peach and pineapple. White oak, quite alot of it with barley sugar. Kind of dry too, at the end.
Balvenie 1992, 53.3%
Quite sharp with a big dollop of malt, sherry, sharp pepper and grilled fruit and marmelade. The finish is long and has a certain greasy quality to it.
Balvenie 2003, 56.6%
Young and spirity with quite some vanilla, spices and a little dirty. Smooth at first but it does build up some power quickly to vanilla, wood spices and pepper.
Sorry, the last one is redacted. There was a non-disclosure agreement and everything. It was very good, that’s what I can say. Someone even tried to steal a sample (yes, talking about you, JdV!). That wasn’t nice. I absolutely loved that dram, however I loved the 1964 and 1980 best. The 1973 was good too, but for some reason I have not been as charmed by many sherry casks as I used to be. The 1980 did have some more oomph (duh, the other one was way down in ABV) and nice fruity white oak flavours.
Oh, and about Sam Simmons. He’s cool. Go see his tastings or something. He’s very passionate about his work in a very modern way. Not so posh and stick-up-his-arse as I’ve seen some other ambassadors.