Friday 10 January 2014

Tasted #60: The Balvenie 1973 single cask 40yo

Back in November I wrote about how Steph and I got to attend a fantastic dinner with The Balvenie's global brand Ambassador, Sam Simmons (aka Dr Whisky). The highlight whisky of the night was the final whisky - a 40yo, single cask, cask strength The Balvenie from 1973.

Not just *any* 40yo single cask cask strength The Balvenie, mind you. This was a whisky that David Stewart pulled (at Sam's request) from the cask just a few weeks before Sam's trip to Australia. Truly one of a kind (to put things into perspective, the commercially-available 40yo The Balvenie sells for over $4,000AUD/bottle).

This was the 5th 40yo whisky I'd tried (the others being from GlenfiddichGlenfarclasMaster of Malt and The Glenrothes (DT)) and I was keen to see how so many years in the cask had treated the whisky. My scores of the previous four ranged from 90 to 98/100, proving age isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of quality.

(Given it was the last whisky of the night, the notes aren't super comprehensive. Sorry 'bout that...)

The Balvenie 1973 Single Cask 40yo (46.7% ABV, 40yo, Speyside Scotland, unavailable - one of a kind)
Colour: Deep, dark, rich copper.

Nose: Strong sherry notes, berries, and a strong oak influence.

Palate: Sandy/dusty, obvious oak influence, drying (like a big bold red wine with strong tanins), still with the berry notes.

Finish: To be honest, not great. Slightly waxy/crayon-y. Lengthy, but just not super more-ish like the Glenfiddich.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Without a doubt, this was an incredible opportunity (and one we were hugely thankful for) to taste such an old, unique one-off whisky. Was it the best whisky I've ever tried? No, not by a long shot (it was still a very good whisky, mind you). As many people know, age is only one factor in the taste/quality of a whisky, and there is such a thing as whisky being "too old". While I don't think this was "too old", it certainly showed strong oak influence, and some odd notes on the finish.

Was it one of the best single whisky tasting experiences I've had though? Certainly.

(I'm told there was a second 40yo 1973 which was on tasting at Sam's visit to Oak Barrel, but unfortunately we didn't get to try that one.)



  1. I found it quite an underwhelming whisky and I do get a bit bored with sherry finishes. Personally do not find old oak and sherry too complimentary to each other. It was certainly an excellent opportunity to try and as Sam said earlier in the day it gets harder and harder to still get to drink a whisky that is older than you are. True of this one but only by a hairs margin. Certainly drinkable and appreciative of the opportunity also.

  2. Fair summary. Good thing we didn't pay $4k/bottle for it. ;-) (Not that anyone paying that kind of money for whisk(e)y is paying it for the taste...I hope.)