Early in January when an email from Cadenheads landed in my
inbox, the rumours became reality. For their 175th Anniversary, 2017
would be celebrated by a series of monthly releases as this leading independent
bottler turned the screw on bank accounts across the country.
Arsenal collated and prepared, this opening salvo is very
much an indication of things to come having been advised of what follows in
February. By chance I’ve managed accidently to cover several bottles from the January
outturn thanks to the excellent Burns Tasting held in Edinburgh recently. This
featured the 19-year-old Aberfeldy, 28-year-old Girvan and an Isle of Arran
19-year-old. Then came my motivation for the 24-year-old Bruichladdich review
leaving just this offering from Bunnahabhain; have I saved the best for last? Admittedly,
a few bottles have escaped my clutches for now including the Glenburgie and
Glenrothes offerings, but ladies and gentlemen, 2017 is going to be costly but
thoroughly enjoyable so let’s pace ourselves.
Cards on the table, I really enjoy a Bunnahabhain whisky.
The official range is of a good standard and well-priced. It’s not a polarising
whisky and one many can find comfort in. I had the pleasure of visiting the
distillery during the Feis Ile festival as part of their Day Tripper event and
all going well will return once again in 2017. It’s a stunning setting if you
haven’t been to Islay, and it well worth the trip to the northern end of the
island. If you’re in any doubt about visiting Islay, or committing too much
time or money, then watch out for a future Day Tripper event.
Bunnahabhain being situated alongside the dangerous Sound of
Islay, appropriately has a maritime feel. From the distillery logo to the
salvaged bell that resides at the distillery. At times it feels a world away
from the big battleships of Islay such as Ardbeg and Laphroaig. In comparison it’s
a weathered but loved chuffer content to go about its business. Bunnahabhain
since 2013 is owned by the African Distell group after their purchase of Burn
Stewart Distillers for £160 million; a deal that also included the Deanston and
Tobermory distilleries. In retrospect that’s a bit of a bargain given the popularity
of all things Islay and the costs in establishing any new distillery, then the necessary
finance during the long wait. It promises to be an exciting time for this trio
of distilleries as we see Distell continue the good work laid down by Burn
This Bunnahabhain was distilled in 1999 and should actually
be considered as having received a double maturation. Cadenheads just give you
facts and then let you call it whatever you prefer but it’s far from a short
finish. Bottled in 2016, from 2013 it resided in a sherry hogshead for the
remainder of its voyage. I’m also presuming its more the traditional low peated
spirit that has kept under supervision by Cadenheads, as opposed to their
heavily peated malt that is not to everyone’s liking. Bottled at 49.7%
strength, this resulted in an outturn of 276 bottles priced at an attractive
Colour: a deep amber
Nose: a vanilla toffee, cola cubes and a faint waft of smoke. A resin-like quality and orange marmalade. Walnuts, maple syrup, coffee beans and vibrant malty presence.
Taste: a very creamy vanilla arrival but it refuses to become a sherry monster, instead there's integration and more spices with cinnamon, cardamom and all-spice. Blackcurrant jam, a touch of bitterness from the wood and sugary syrup transcending into honeycomb.
Overall: a very drinkable and enjoyable Bunnahabhain. The double maturation has added a coat of gloss but nothing too dramatic. Instead you have an Islay malt that everyone should be able to enjoy.
Labels: bunnahabhain, cadenhead, featured, islay