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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

May 30, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Bunnahabhain Feis Ile and others

As usual, we've got quite a bunch of Bunnahabhains in the stash. I think we'll first find an official apéritif, then have the new, enigmatic 'Canasta' for Feis 2023, then a few indies indluding some older ones. As for what Bunnahabhain and Feis mean to me, I'll simply remember a tremendous gig by the Blazin' Fiddles in the courtyard, those fabulous Bunnahabhain burgers that used to shelter more malt whisky than meat, and naturally, those tours of the warehouses, glass and valinch in hand, with sorely missed manager John MacLellan (whose lovely cottage in Port Charlotte we used to rent for the festival). Imagine comparing various casks of 1963, 1965 or 1968… back and forth!

2015 (WF Archive)

BTW, for this session we'll consider that any whisky not bearing the names Moine or Staoisha is unpeated but we may fail, you sometimes cannot tell from the label whether a Bunnahabhain is peated or not.



Bunnahabhain 'Toiteach A Dha' (46.3%, OB, +/-2022)

Bunnahabhain 'Toiteach A Dha' (46.3%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
One of those provocatively unpronounceable NASses they seem to like to release from time to time… Colour: light gold. Nose: fail, it's peated! Albeit rather lightly so, as if they had kind of blended some unpeated with some peated, or even filled some ex-Moine casks. Not too sure, but indeed this is pleasant, feels a little young, displays some hay and a little tar, some orange blossom, bits of dried pears and apples, some smoked sausage German-style, and a small cup of lapsang souchong. There's something Indian to it, perhaps masala or something, which may come from the woods. Mouth: rather sweet and spicy, even more 'Indian' to my taste, with some lemongrass and coriander, some kind of smoky curry and a handful of cinnamon drops. Once again, the smokiness feels a little 'German'. Think cold-smoked Rohwürste sausages again, or there, Alsatian Landjäger. Also marmalade, grapefruit… Finish: rather long, still sweet and spicy, and pretty curry-like. Comments: certainly a softer, easier peater. Do you say 'toy-teach'?
SGP:554 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 'Feis Ile 2023' (51.2%, OB, Canasta Cask Matured, +/-2023)

Bunnahabhain 'Feis Ile 2023' (51.2%, OB, Canasta Cask Matured, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
Apparently, Canasta is some sherry, which I just didn't know before. It is actually a brand of cream sherry made by Williams & Humbert. Remember, 'matured' doesn't obligatorily mean 'fully matured'. Colour: gold. Nose: the cream sherry is extremely noticeable, shall we say, and would have imparted notes of many dried fruits and liqueurs, mead, raisins, fudges, and even mosto/must, which we would also find in these Pineau des Charentes finishes that are rather fashionable these days. Nice. With water: this is almost some young moscatel! Nothing against that, having said that. Mouth (neat): indeed, it is very sweet, almost syrupy, this is almost some dessert whisky, in a way. Pour over ice-cream! With water: once again, it got sweeter yet, rather in the style of a young rancio this time. Finish: medium, grapey, sweet, muscaty. Comments: this one's good for the Jerez Sherry Festival too! It really is extra-extra-sweet.

SGP: 741- 83 points.

Speaking of sherry…

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2012/2022 'Monuments' (43%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900778)

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2012/2022 'Monuments' (43%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900778) Four stars
Lovely Prestonfield-like combination of old-skool label and gentle strength. We're back in 1990, which I find charming. Remember when Celtic crosses – usually Kildalton's indeed - were all over our bottles of whisky? Colour: gold. Nose: smartly Macallany, with whiffs of marmalade made with Demerara sugar, sultanas, bananas flambéed, tarte tatin, and litres and litres (and litres) of earl grey tea. Some tiny hints of some kind of earthy smoke. Charming indeed. Mouth: I keep thinking of young Macallan of old, with touches of sour fruits, then many dried ones, a bit of liquorice, some pipe tobacco, bananas flambéed indeed, sultanas, Corinth raisins (or Smyrna), pears poached in sweet wine… Grape jam. Finish: not too long at this strength, but veery good, with some winks at… hold on, cognac? Comments: truly charming, and highly drinkable. It's just that whenever I see that cross, I cannot not think of what the Vikings did to the abbot who's buried underneath.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 13 yo 2005/2019 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill barrel, cask #HL16645, 271 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 13 yo 2005/2019 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill barrel, cask #HL16645, 271 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: cleaner, a little simpler, much more on fresh fruits, bananas, apples, mirabelles, quinces, then cassata, panettone, and this honey that we used to find in abundance in the old official 12s. A few liquorice allsorts. Water is not needed. Mouth: a tad more doughy, but with even more bananas, overripe apples, this mead indeed, meadow honey, plus hints of very young brandy. All good. Finish: same. Medium length, plums, bananas, ripe apples, scones and madeleines in the aftertaste. Comments: a well-balanced, fresher young Bunnahabhain. No quibbles and pesterings – for the record.

SGP:551 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (53.7%, The Whisky Agency, butt, 268 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (53.7%, The Whisky Agency, butt, 268 bottles) Four stars
According to the label, there should be some honey again in there. Colour: gold. Nose: a few flinty tones at first, then a lot of brioche dough, kougelhopf, that panettone that we keep mentioning (but we love panettone while I believe they only make them around Xmas time), and indeed some stronger honey, heather, chestnut, thyme… There's strictly nothing not to like in there. With water:  water brings out meaty tones, tobacco, pu-her tea, dried kelp… Mouth (neat): some very good sweet and cakey sherry, with Mars bars, pancake sauce and once more, a lot of honey and honey-based sauces. Do you know Twix? I mean, both? With water: excellent sherry indeed, this time with touches of menthol and eucalyptus. Thin mints, After Eights… Finish: long, rich, neither heavy nor loud, always with a lot of heather honey, somewhat ala old HP. Remember both distilleries used to belong to Highland Distillers at some point. Comments: just a tiny tad rustic here and there, but it's a lovely sherried 'Bunna'. Or 'Bunny'. Oh, whatever.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (50.3%, Klubb23 for Buds & Barrels, 80 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (50.3%, Klubb23 for Buds & Barrels, 80 bottles) Four stars
A small bottling to put an end to this first part of our Bunnahabhain 'Feis' session. Colour: full topaz gold. Yep. Nose: more earthiness in this one, artisanal mead, pack of Camels, tarte tatin, quince jelly, drop of hoisin sauce, touches of pink pepper, a spoonful of chicken bouillon… With water: more towards teas, hay, dried flowers, perhaps patchouli (hare hare)… Mouth (neat): Bunnahabhain and sherry do tango to perfection. Loads of toffee, millionaire shortbread, Curly Wurly bar, honey, breakfast tea, maple syrup… With water: peanut butter! What could beat peanut butter!? Drop of triple-sec. Finish: medium, a little meatier again. Honey-glazed ham. Comments: another one that's super-good – and reminiscent of the old official 12.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

And because as we all know, Bunnahabhain ages gracefully…

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1997/2022 (57.1%, Adelphi for Hot Malt Taiwan, 10th Anniversary, oloroso gorda, cask #1670, 634 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1997/2022 (57.1%, Adelphi for Hot Malt Taiwan, 10th Anniversary, oloroso gorda, cask #1670, 634 bottles) Five stars
So, 100°proof. A gorda, actually a botta gorda, is… a butt. As for Adelphi's labels, all sponsored by capitalistic opticians, they seem to be getting smaller and smaller, are they not? Colour: deep gold. Nose: fat, buttery, mineral, slightly sulphury (in the greatest of ways), shock-full of walnuts and pistachios in all their states, with some carbon dust and the smells of a pre-war Rolls-Royce. I am not joking. Add to that litres of amontillado, fino and vin jaune. With water: even more of all that. Pour this in Arbois or Château-Chalon, or indeed in Sanlucar, over chicken and morels, or langoustines. Mouth (neat): full nutty oloroso, you would almost believe this was a proper solera cask. Mustard, amontillado, walnuts, bits of tobacco, coffee toffee… With water: more crazy toffee, mocha, walnut wine, indeed oloroso, pipe tobacco, mustard sauce (à la diable), pistachio nougat, green honeys… Finish: long, mustardy and oloroso-y. A feeling of slate in the aftertaste. Comments: the lighter colour did not give it away! Wonderful dry sherry monster, I totally love it. If you like dry sherry, you'll love it too. I remember these casks were rather tough when still young, but they've blossomed, it seems.

SGP:472 - 91 points.

Let's check an 'opposite' hogshead…

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1989/2022 (40.8%, Skene, hogshead, cask #5743)

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1989/2022 (40.8%, Skene, hogshead, cask #5743) Five stars
Look at this colour… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: instant love. Very subtle whiffs of gentian, celeriac, wild carrots, church candles, very soft oils, linseed, poppyseed, old riesling… You do not need a long tasting note, do you! But as always with these lighter, whispering casks, the challenge lies on your palate. Mouth: feels a little fragile at first, but it'll then take off (like an albatross, ha), while rather remaining in wine territory, that is to say old riesling and old sauvignon blanc. From the Graves! Touches of white asparagus, limestone (licking stones, of course you should), more carrots, more root vegetables… but indeed it keeps whispering 'low' (sweet Wayne Shorter, not with us anymore!)  Finish: shortish, but with pineapples. Comments: some light wine malt, perhaps not for youtubers (what?) but I like this fragile style that some old Tomintouls, Tomatins and indeed Bunnahabhains used to share. Fragile and precious.
SGP:441 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1977/2022 (47.2%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1977/2022 (47.2%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12) Five stars
Indeed, this baby's actually 44 years old. Parisian cocketry, you know. Colour: gold. Nose: did we just write 'fragile and precious'? Crème au beurre, ripe apples, preserved greengages, buttercups, gorse (and these wee coconut smells), soft woods, pinewood, pine nuts, honeysuckle, sesame oil, crushed banana… It's the freshness that's rather thrilling, despite these 'fragile' aspects. Mouth: oranges leading the way, with a salty side that would then lead us to… Sanlucar again. Fresh walnuts are back, herbs, teas, soft mustard, liquorice wood, and also manzanilla-the-tea (that's chamomile). Awesome, complex, needing your time. Finish: a tad short perhaps, greener and leafier, but with a fresh mentholy aftertaste that makes it raise its head. So to speak. Comments: they've always been a little fragile and, well, kind of modestly aromatic, but when they haven't gotten too tea-ish, which is the case here (I mean, it hasn't), these batches would display the subtleties of a Turner. You just have to listen. I mean, to admire. Indeed we should all listen to sweet Tina T. too.

SGP:551 - 90 points.

(Thank you, Tom H. and the B. gang)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bunnahabhain we've tasted so far







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