Then, the staff of the Ty Bar carried over a giant leather suitcase and opened it up to reveal liquid gold — five bottles of Balvenie that range in age from a 2004 to a 1961.
The case — called the Balvenie DCS Compendium — was selected by Balvenie’s legendary Malt Master David Stewart. The whole case would sell for $60,000. That’s if you could even buy it, which you can’t because it’s no longer for sale.
We started with the 2004, which had bold hints of grass and toast and maple.
“My goodness these are incredible,” O’Leary gasped.
We moved on to the ’93, the ’81 and the ’73, each of which became more complex, smoother and rich in flavors.
When we got to the ’61, however, O’Leary and I paused. This was, after all, Balvenie’s oldest bottle ever — whisky that was put in a cask in 1961 and taken out 55 years later. The bottle would be $55,000 alone — but you can’t buy it anywhere. So the only place you can taste it commercially in the U.S. is at the Ty Bar.
O’Leary and I had a 1.5-ounce serving, which is about $5,000 worth of whisky.
O’Leary could hardly come up with the words to describe it. His exact quote: “Eecheewawa Carumba!”
He added, “It’s an arrogant taste but I appreciate its audacity.”
The 1961 was a liquid explosion of tastes and colors — sunshine, fresh-cut grass, pancakes, lemon trees, the smell of wood stoves in the winter, and homemade butterscotch. And this tiny glass, with 1.5 ounces, cost more than my first car.
So I asked O’Leary — known for being so frugal he refuses to pay $2.50 for a cup of coffee — whether the $5,000 sip of whisky was worth it.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I get it. I get why people would pursue this. There is nothing else like this in the world. Everyone has to try this during their lifetime.”