When visiting a distillery, it’s a must to take at least one tour, but being encamped at Bunnahabhain for a day during their Feis Ile celebrations I had the opportunity to experience another type of tour.
Rewind to the Bunnahabhain Feis Ile Day Tripper event and a glorious summer’s day on Islay. After the engaging and thoroughly informative distillery tour, we were now in the hands of Iain Shaw for the warehouse event. Things opened with the revelation that given the age of the warehouses on site, which date from the 1890’s, our original host wasn’t deemed safe for our cask exploration. Needless to say all the warehouses I visited on site seemed to be traditional dunnage, filled to the brim with casks. Bunnahabhain is so busy nowadays they’ve had to utilise storage space at Port Ellen. That’d make for an interesting special edition surely?
Nose: very buttery is my initial thought. Dried cranberries and oranges. Tobacco leaves, honey and its beneath this the cask has delivered raspberries, figs, golden syrup and strawberry jam.
Taste: the red wine cask is more evident on the palate. More of the cranberries and oranges once again. It’s drinkable at cask strength. Honey roasted nuts, digestive biscuits and more of that strawberry jam once again.
Nose: we’re taken to a camp fire initially, filled with smoke and cigars. A pack of cola cubes is passed around with some cinnamon sweets and red liquorice. A cup of Bovril makes the rounds, a hot chocolate is also present. Raisins and maple syrup also make an appearance.
Taste: damp wood initially then a rich treacle, bitter dark chocolate with more spice with cinnamon and all-spice. A beefy quality and plenty of roasted coffee.
10 year old, Mazanilla sherry butt, 60.1% vol
Colour: a clutch of daffodils
Nose: porridge oats with golden syrup springs to mind, with a salty honey aspect. There’s vanilla and bacon fat, dark chocolate most certainly and coffee beans. A rugged aspect almost stone chippings along with liquorice, fudge and Black Jacks – an aniseed chewy sweetie for those unfamiliar with this British confectionary. With water, toffee comes through.
Taste: its full on from the cask. Blackcurrants, seaweed and a vegetative moss influence. A bitter dark chocolate bar. The cask gives us cloves and sultanas but its far from the sherry monster it may have been. Water brings out a rubbery aspect and a peppery cinnamon finish.
Overall: a meal in itself and certainly not for everyone. It shows how a sweet sherry cask can cope with a peaty new make spirit.
So there have it. The tour ends with a trio of enjoyable drams with my own favourite being the Oloroso 9 year old. We step outside for a few moments before it becomes clear it’s time to leave Bunnahabhain and the Feis Ile for another year. A coach awaits, then the ferry and then another bus back to Glasgow before a departure dram in the city centre.