[Balvenie Distillery Ambassador David Mair was kind enough to provide Stephen with this sample and an amazing tour when Stephen visited The Balvenie Distillery in September of this year. For more on Stephen’s visit, check out his account here.]
In a search for maximum authenticity on this review, we thought we would try to capture the magic of letting things intermingle in a marrying tun by sequestering ourselves in an actual marrying tun (that’s right, all three of us at once) to generate our tasting notes. The marrying tun we used is the full-sized one John constructed in (and for) the MaltCave during a recent (and particularly slow) overnight shift there, using up every last discarded plank of wood from the boat I’d made from my family Giving Tree. While John claims he was just recycling, I think he was just trying to make me feel even guiltier than I already do (that’s the part Shel Silverstein left out: in most families, anyway, you can’t get away with much of anything significant without getting seriously guilt-tripped). Bill affectionately named it eiπ = –1, claiming that it was as elegant and beautiful name as he could imagine. John and I just call her “Mary.”
At any rate, we spent the better part of a Friday night sitting in Mary, concocting the singular marriage of tasting notes that follow. We would have taken pictures, but it was dark in there.
We should also note: our esteem for this dram is so great that our transcription service uploaded the rough cut of the review on BitTorrent and WikiLeaks. We decided to act quickly and just release the transcript ourselves.
Stephen: The nose is round…
John: It’s rummy. Rummy, chummy, yummy.
Bill: Oranges with underlying citrus
John: Citrus underneath citrus, Bill?
Stephen: …from an execution!
John: Yeah, blue steel, flint, graphite…
Bill: There are definitely notes of a War of 1812 re-enactment here, but in this one, all the boats actually sank…
Stephen: …because Somali pirates came upon the re-enactment…
John: …and ruined the authenticity of it altogether. But in a very enjoyable way.
Stephen: It’s bitter like myrrh…
John: But it’s also smooth and honeyed, unctuous and pleasing all at once….
Bill: It’s a Hegelian blend of thesis and antithesis.
Stephen: That would be a synthesis, Bill.
Bill: The finish is long, like ringing the changes at Big Ben.
Stephen: Leaden circles dissolve in the air…
John: There’s an indistinct umami on the back half of the tongue…
Bill: Yeah, a phantom relish fermented like kimchi.
[After fumbling around in the dark for fifteen or twenty minutes, we finally found the water dropper.]
Bill: With water, wine or maybe sherry comes through more…
Bill: It’s oilier, smoother with water—really removes the sting…Do you think we could have brought in the dropper of lidocaine by accident?
Stephen: Apples dipped in caramel…
John: I’m getting the cigar residue in your mouth when you wake up after a night of stogies and whisky.
Bill: Did someone say “cigar”?
Stephen: Hey, we’re not finished with these notes, Bill!
John: Let him go. Just leaves more for us.
Stephen: Ooh. Good call.
On the scale of great marriages—
The Balvenie Tun 1401, Batch #2 is Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio—Ok, so it didn’t last that long (but neither will this whisky—after all, it is a consumable, and a really good one at that). But by all accounts, they really loved each other, they both understood well the price of fame, and there may never be a classier, more beautiful married couple than they were.
Our thanks to David Mair and Balvenie for the sample–and for the wonderful reception at the distillery!