Provenance: Islay (Scotland)
Typology: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing barrels: Ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry
Added coloring: No
Owner: Burn Stewart Distillery plc.
Average price: € 49.00
Official website: bunnahabhain.com
If you stay too far from Islay, you’ll get nostalgic, so why not stay a little longer?
This time, though, let’s try something different: while the island has become synonymous with peated whiskies, there’s more to life than smoking, and there are also (very good) alternatives with less burnt profiles.
In business since 1881, Bunnahabhain is charmingly located in the north-eastern part of Islay, at the “mouth of the river” (as its name suggests in Gaelic), the Margadale, and is distinguished by its wide selection of whiskies that are free of the area’s typical smoky note.
In its century and a half of activity, Bunnahabhain (yes, I always check that I’ve spelt it right) has carved out a respectable place for itself in the island’s offerings, starting with this 12-year-old classic (on the market since 1979, with different graphics and gradations in the past). A recent feature is giving their NAS names in Gaelic, so as to create very funny mispronunciations in those who try to pronounce them: Toiteach A Dhà, Stiùireadair, Ceobanach… Try it at your next party, guaranteed laughs!
Natural colouring and unchillfiltered, it starts off well, and in the glass the golden colour of the distillate stands out enticingly.
As you approach the nose, the influence of Sherry is immediately present: sultanas, candied fruit and caramel fill the nostrils, joined shortly afterwards by the ocean that accompanies them gracefully. A very soft, caressing, sweet nose. Some people perceive peated notes which, however, did not reach me.
Sipping, the slightly higher than average alcohol content pushes the flavours into the mouth, making them less velvety than on the nose, but always remaining on a lovable profile. The presence of the ocean becomes more pronounced, dampening the sweetness that turns towards salted butter, and here I perceive the peat, but in its more vegetal, not smoky, herbaceous aspect. More candied fruit, caramel, but without overflowing into the most extreme sherried: the refinement is there but it is well integrated with the Bourbon. Perhaps for some it will still be too sweet, but I find it a fine balance, full-bodied and mature.
In the finish, the sweet/salty and herbaceous aspects remain, not too long lasting.
For such a long-standing, basic expression, I must say that it holds up well. Having gone from the previous 43 degrees to the current 46.3, I think has helped the structure of the whisky, helping to contain the influence of the casks.
The Whiskey Jug