Distillery/Brand: Bunnahabhain | Region: Islay | ABV: 54.1% | Colour: Yellow Gold
Nose: 8.2 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 8.0 | Overall Score: 8.2
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus of late. Brought on by writing too much about whisky and not enjoying it as much as I should. So I decided to take a little breather just to re-charge the old batteries a bit.
Sometimes it’s nice to just sit and relax with your drink without a paper & pen nearby. But I realised I missed doing this too so I decided to open the vault and bring out a Bunnahabhain to share with you guys.
My experience at Bunnahabhain was quite an amazing one. We were booked for a Managers’ Tasting which we had pre-paid and, unfortunately, could not attend due to unforeseen circumstances. Now those who’ve been to Islay will tell you that everyone you encounter goes out of their way to help you in some way or the other.
In our case it was the tasting manager, James. He was so understanding about our no-show that he not only let us and three other friends in on a single cask tasting at a later date he also shared with us samples of this years’ Festival bottles including this interesting 16 year old.
Matured for the first ten years in bourbon and then it’s remaining time in Amontillado sherry this is a rather pricey 16 year old (£250 at the distillery) with a total outrun of, yes you guessed it, 250 bottles. My sample is from an open bottle and served at 54.1% ABV
Nose: It’s quite perfumy. In a nice way. With an earthy spice. Cardamom. Quite delicate. Aniseed. Liquorice. Cranberries. Marzipan. Mild ground coffee. All-spice. Ginger. Dash of water gives it a slight cinnamon touch. I like this nose. It’s quite unusual. Has a really strong aniseed touch to it. Under normal circumstances I would have been quite critical but I like the fact that it’s so unusual. 8.2
Palate: Quite oily. Very chewy. Full bodied. My kind of delivery. Milk chocolate. Think Cadbury plain. Hint of rose water. Candied ginger. Honeycomb. A betel leaf crispiness. Hint of lime. White wine chardonnay. And that aniseed again. I like it. Beautiful texture. Again quite unusual on the palate. 8.4
Finish: Quite spicy. Chewy. Yes, aniseed. Nutty. Coats your mouth in a warm embrace. 8.0
Overall Comments: I like it. The only other Amontillado influenced whisky I’ve tried is the Laphroaig 2014 Festival Release. Quite to my liking as is this one. If you don’t like it immediately then allow it to grow on you. Because, believe me, it does.
Overall Score: 8.2
Distillery/Brand: Bunnahabhain | Region: Islay | ABV: 58.6% | Colour: Oloroso
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92
As I’m sure many of you know of my Islay escapades in May when I went there for the 2015 Festival shenanigans. Since it was my first time on Islay I pretty much went everywhere wide-eyed and mouth agape in excitement.
While my entire trip was something of a gorgeous fairy-tale it was the visit to Bunnahabhain, on their open day, that really set itself apart for me. My friend and I started with dropping our car off in a field and then proceeded to wait almost 45 minutes for the distillery bus to come pick us up.
So fierce was the wind that we almost gave up half way through and were actually entertaining thoughts of heading back. Good thing we didn’t.
We entered the distillery to live music, games and quite possibly the best burgers I’ve ever had in my life. Already feeling quite happy we went up to the distillery shop to pick up some bottles.
Now I’m not a huge fan of the Bunna, the 18 and 25 are very good, mind you, but the other stuff I’m not a big fan of. However, when I was told we had the option of hand-filling our bottles straight from Oloroso casks there was no way I was going to pass up that opportunity.
We made our way into the damp warehouse where sat three huge Oloroso barrels. The sweet smell of sherry and whisky was in the air.
We drew from three casks that day. There was a 12 year old first-fill (Cask1490), an eight year old peated second-fill (Cask 3660) and the one that I’m holding in my hand right now, the seven year old matured in second-fill Oloroso Gonzalez Byass sherry, drawn from Cask 4903.
I could see the gunk and the sediments from the cask as I held the glass up to the island light. I have never seen a whisky nor felt joy that pure. Quite possibly one of my finest moments as a whisky enthusiast.
My sample is from a personally sealed and signed bottle, distilled on 22.10.08 and bottled on 29.05.15 (by my self, I might add!) and served at a cask strength of 58.6%
Nose: Super sweet. So much Oloroso. Dry dates. Dry oak. Chocolate. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Brownies. Dry leaves. Cigar leaf. Almonds. Vanilla. Toffee apples. Mellows out a touch with a drop of water. Slightly more butterscotch. More caramel. Less oak. Beautiful. Sweet as! 23/25
Palate: Very creamy. Digestive biscuits. Quite spicy. Oak. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Chocolate fudge. Dates. Gets even more creamy with water. Becomes less spicy. Slightly more savory. Such a smooth and creamy palate. 23/25
Finish: Very long. Oaky. Hint of spice. Maybe a touch bitter. But more of a bitter chocolate. 23/25
Overall Comments: This is a gorgeous sherry monster. I love the fact that I’ve drawn this out of the cask full of all the grime and the sediments that come with a whisky this pure. It is quite wonderfully balanced between sweet and savory. The cask strength really brings out the flavors. I prefer it without water, too. Regardless of how they taste these whiskies will always remind me of my best day on Islay.
Distillery/Brand: Bunnahabhain | Region: Islay | ABV: 46.3% | Color: Old Sauternes
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93
Bunnahabhain represent the lighter side of peat on Islay. That’s because the distilleries water is piped down from streams on the Margdale Hills and is considered less peaty than most water used for distilling on Islay.
Bunnahabhain also hold the distinction of being one of the few distilleries founded in the ‘whisky boom’ of the 1920s and to still be around today.
I’ve had a few Bunnas in my time (the 12, 18, Darch Ur, Toiteach and now the 25) and find that they carry a similar thread in both the nose and palate. Must be those consistently good sherry casks they employ.
This 25-year-old release runs to just 400 bottles and comes presented in an Alder wooden box lined with Hessian and closed with solid brass fittings.
Nose: Robust sherry. Quite dry on the nose. Chocolate fudge. Moist dates. Sandalwood. Dark honey. Nice oak. Wisp of smoke. Salty Nuts. An absolutely gorgeous nose that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Palate: Medium bodied. Orange fudge. Ginger. Cinnamon. Butterscotch toffees. The oak dries a touch mid-palate. Nougat. And the moist dates are back. I expected it to be a lot more creamier, though.
Finish: Satisfyingly long. Cinnamon. Chocolate.
There’s a lovely maturity to this spirit and the flavors work seamlessly together. Add to this the great presentation box and you almost don’t mind shelling out 200GBP for it.
Color: Pale Straw
That Boutique-y Whisky Company is the brainchild of the chaps over at Master of Malt. While many independent bottlers will bottle single casks or blended expressions TBWC (can’t be fussed typing the whole thing over and over again!) actually bottle blended malts from the same distillery as unofficial single malts.
In case you’re wondering they’re the ones with the cartoon illustrations on 50cl bottles. Quite stylish.
Apart from their artistic approach to labels I realized there was a complete lack of information on their bottlings. Definitely no age statements. Just batches. They claim that even they don’t know what they’re going to get next time around so their might be 30 years between batches.
Nothing much about the casks used or any type of special maturation or blending. Nothing.
Now I don’t mind a bit of mystique but I would like some type of information on what I’m throwing back. Especially since they’re not exactly cheap.
But, hey, what are you gonna do?
This expression is a No Age Statement Bunnahabhain bottled at 46.1% and is one of 233 numbered bottles.
Nose: Hint of smoky peat with a mild ginger spice. It’s quite musty and reminds me of moist mushrooms and bran soaked in warm milk. Get past that and some sweeter citrus honey and chocolate notes emerge. Finally ends with an air of coastal sea salt, kelp and rain-soaked jute bags.
Palate: Starts off savory with dark cocoa beans and black pepper. The second sip brings out a lot of honey sweetness and fruits. But it’s the brown coffee and cinnamon toast that largely define this palate.
Finish: Medium oily with the same salty cocoa beans.
This is quite an accomplished little whisky and is a touch edgy compared to the original bottlings. I like it.