The Balvenie's 60-Year-Old Scotch Is Exceedingly Rare and Delicious

Even with the current state of inflation, there are plenty of rewarding things you could acquire with $145,000. A Porsche, perhaps. A well-appointed fishing boat. Maybe even a modest cabin. Alternatively, you could get your hands on a single bottle of whisky from The Balvenie. In 2022, the iconic Speyside Scotch maker unveiled The Balvenie Sixty, its 60-year-old single malt, and with only 71 bottles available globally, it's both the distillery’s oldest and rarest release to date.

So, even as someone who writes about whisky for a living, it took me more than 18 months to secure a precious pour. But this was a dram that required 60 years worth of patient production. What’s another year-or-so added on top? Turns out, it was well worth the wait.

The liquid in question comes from a solitary cask of exceptional character, found deep in the recesses of a damp, dunnage warehouse. It was wrested from its slumber by Balvenie malt master Kelsey McKechnie, who was taken away by its “autumnal aromas.” It's robust in body and polished copper in color. McKechnie brought it to bottle at a precise proof of 42.4 percent ABV, where assertive threads of nutmeg and dark roasted espresso could shine bright from first sip firmly through a prolonged finish.

Related: The 15 Best Scotch Whiskies of 2024

New York City-based Scotch enthusiasts like me can find the spirit for sale at Nubeluz, the stylish bar from chef José Andrés atop the Ritz-Carlton NoMad hotel. I was thankfully offered a taste, saving me the cost. After ordering, it arrived at my table with appropriate pageantry: An elegant glass pipette descended into the bottle to delicately relay the juice to my dram.

The whisky's light hue belied its deep underlying flavors. After sitting in a snifter for a moment or two, a floral bouquet of honeysuckle and lilac lifted towards my nose. Then came a blast of butterscotch, which served as the perfect prelude to the aforementioned elements of espresso, anchoring each sip. Before it faded from the back of the palate, candied ginger and orange zest imprint a parting residue.

Beyond the fleeting beauty of the Scotch itself, the release is presented as a lasting ode to the work of McKechnie’s mentor, David C. Stewart, MBE. The industry icon is celebrating six decades in Scotch, making him Scotland's longest-serving whisky maker. Whether or not you’re familiar with his work, you can’t be a Scotch drinker today without having sipped his legacy, as it was Stewart who helped pioneer the technique of cask finishing back in the early 1980s.

The Balvenie Sixty is the oldest and rarest expression that the Speyside Scotch producer has ever made.<p>Courtesy of The Balvenie</p>
The Balvenie Sixty is the oldest and rarest expression that the Speyside Scotch producer has ever made.

Courtesy of The Balvenie

“I've learned so much from David at work,” says McKechnie. “His mentorship has made a profound impact on me and finding a cask to fit such an incredible character in the distillery’s history is a great honor.”

That honor is bestowed in a specially layered tube casing. It wraps around the hand-blown crystal decanter, etched with personal anecdotes from five decades worth of individuals who influenced Stewart’s unprecedented journey. The sixth decade is represented by the bottle itself, which contains a quote from McKechnie.

It’s unclear how many of those 71 initial bottles even washed up on American shores. I know of two places; there's Nubeluz, where you'll pay $6,000 per half ounce pour or $12,000 per one ounce pour, or you can ship up to the Boston Harbor Hotel in its namesake city, where The Balvenie Sixty costs $12,500 for an ounce and a half pour.

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If you want a far more accessible sample that honors Stewart’s legacy, The Balvenie DoubleWood is always there for the plucking. The nutty, smooth-sipping 12-year-old single malt is primarily matured in ex-bourbon barrels before transferring to European oak sherry wood. Initially released in 1993, it remains one of the most beloved examples of a finished scotch on shelves today. And at its current suggested retail price, often under $30, you could amass thousands of bottles for less than the cost of a single bottle of The Balvenie 60. Hope you have a large backbar.

A bottle of The Balvenie Sixty.<p>Courtesy of The Balvenie</p>
A bottle of The Balvenie Sixty.

Courtesy of The Balvenie

Related: We've Tasted Hundreds of Whiskeys. These Are the Best in the World