I want to like Bunnahabhain more than I do, which is not to say I dislike them. You see, my first dram – at the not-quite-legal age of 17, on a holiday to Scotland, on the shores of a loch – was the Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old. I liked it. My tasting note at the time was ‘smooth’, which is a word I’ve come to loathe in reviewing as it says, quite frankly, bugger all about a whisky. (I punish myself for saying it.) Anyway, that aside, Bunnahabhain has a soft spot in my heart, yet I’ve not come to utterly love the distillery. Revisiting the 12 has left me disappointed, but the Darach Ur – Batch 6 was delightful. I’ve often wanted to try more of their offerings, to rekindle that old affection, but as of yet no casual dramming has done the trick.
Which brings me to the Bunnahabhain (Peated) 23 Year Old / 1989 / 2013 The Rare Casks – Release 2 from Abbey Whisky:
“Distilled in 1989, this special malt was aged in a refill hogshead for 23 years before being bottled at natural cask strength of 44% vol. As with the 1st release only 96 bottles have been filled and made available for this limited edition release.”
It’s worth a pretty penny, at £79.95, but will this new bottling from Abbey Whisky rekindle that love?
Colour: maize-like, curiously pale for its age. On the nose: oh, now that’s nice. A lovely cereal fruitiness. Rich. Creamy. There’s depth here. Stewed apple. Cinnamon. Once you’re in for a while, the sweetness dominates. Summer pudding. Praline.
In the mouth: the gentle peat is noticeable against that sweet nose; but up until now I had forgotten that Bunnahabhain was on Islay. But here’s that smoke – just a wisp of it against the morning air. The cereal shines through now. Bold malted barley. Wood. Sea bass. Chardonnay. And the sweetness is still there, of course, but masked by these other flavours. The balance is good.
Yes, it’s not bad at all. Yes, Bunnahabhain can produce some solid whisky. This is a solid whisky that suggests a strong range is developing for Abbey Whisky’s The Rare Casks. Bunnahabhain collectors will certainly want to get a slice of this though.
What this has done is made me more determined to explore the distillery’s offerings. I think, sometimes, that says more than the tasting notes.