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

May 30, 2024


Feis Ile Special

A Few Bunnies ex-Sherry Cask

The challenge, when you amass samples of Bunnahabhain, as with Bruichladdich for that matter, is to avoid coming face to face with peated versions in your glasses. This is also true for Tobermory and, on rarer occasions, Springbank and quite a few other distilleries.

The favourite little joke of our friends
distillers and maltsters. (WF Archive)

They are numerous in having abandoned their own, if not historic, style to produce a bit of everything —unpeated, lightly peated, moderately peated, peated, heavily peated, immensely peated... Of course, each style is supposed to have its own brand (such as Moine, Stoisha etc.), but these brands being trademarked, it's not uncommon for independents to prefer simply naming the distilleries. It's up to the taster to sort them out... and sometimes to get a real shock. Because tasting a peated whisky when it wasn't anticipated or simply expected can sometimes be quite frankly dreadful. Well, say a little prayer for me, thanks in advance... We're going to go a bit at random now...



Bunnahabhain 'Bagh Cluin' (40%, OB, sherry and bourbon, +/-2023)

Bunnahabhain 'Bagh Cluin' (40%, OB, sherry and bourbon, +/-2023) Three stars
The name of this expression means 'Calm Bay.' Well, having sampled numerous NAS Bunnahabhains, we're all speaking Gaelic now, aren't we? Apparently, this is an exclusive version for Asia. Colour: gold. Nose: quite pleasing, dominated by brioche and slightly stale bread, complemented by bay leaf and fresh walnut, suggesting a hint of a sherry finish. There are definite maritime wafts, perhaps from the eponymous 'Calm Bay' near the distillery. One wonders if the casks indeed matured locally. There's also a touch of allspice and grated nutmeg adding to the complexity. Mouth: enjoyable, featuring bitter orange and bay leaf again, then branching into some strawberry and grenadine notes, though I'm not entirely sure where these flavours are springing from. Walnut wine and a dash of savagnin under veil add further layers to this intriguing profile. Finish: reasonably long for its strength, carrying similar notes before concluding with a salty bitterness and even a hint of mustard. Comments: rather better than what I'd expected from a NAS at 40% ABV.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976/2009 (43.1%, The Whisky Cask, The Stills, sherry cask)

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976/2009 (43.1%, The Whisky Cask, The Stills, sherry cask) Four stars and a half
Glad to have this one in the glass. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the sherry is merely a footnote here; instead, we're graced with one of those Bunnies that luxuriate in yellow and white fruits—think pear and greengage—followed by just a hint of shortbread and almond milk. Then comes a delightful apple tart, drizzled with a touch of honey and a drop of guava juice. Everything here is elegant, nothing is overdone. Mouth: it's really quite splendid, with a somewhat understated style that echoes the glorious mid to late 1960s. This is decidedly not about the cask; it's refined, focusing on Western fruits and gentle honeys, with a very slight coastal hint, floral notes, and herbal teas. Think traditional chamomile or perhaps rosehip. It's really quite charming, albeit somewhat reserved. Finish: medium-length, really loaded with very ripe apple and mead. Comments: while it's certainly no longer a bottle you'd find under a horse's hoof, I think the connoisseur should indeed seek out one old Bunny of this style and era.
SGP:541 - 88 points.

Honestly, I've realised that 90% of what's been coming out for the past two or three years is peated Bunnahabhain. What's going on? Have they stopped making regular Bunnahabhain? Regardless, we're focusing on older releases that we haven't yet tried, so…

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 2001/2014 (55.8%, Claxton's, oloroso, cask #1730-1429)

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 2001/2014 (55.8%, Claxton's, oloroso, cask #1730-1429) Four stars
Oh, Claxton's ! Colour: full gold. Nose: initial light scents of spent matches and plasticine give way to nut oils and dried fruits, predominantly very dark raisins and dates. A note of damp earth emerges later, accompanied by traditional pipe tobacco. With water: some candied cherries and copper (think old pennies) appear. A very attractive nose indeed. Mouth (neat): quite delightful, and though it's a rich sherry influence (leaning more towards fine PX than oloroso, truth be told), the distillate still asserts itself with its honeyed notes and very slight salty touches. With water: it becomes perfect, echoing with chestnut honey, raisins, figs, that signature pipe tobacco, and a splash of orange liqueur adding a fresher dimension. Finish: long, with hints of spiced meats. Definitely reminiscent of an Indian dish. Roasted chestnuts and a bit of liquorice appear towards the end. Comments: really superb, these Bunnahabhains by Claxton. We continue to pray that the distillers keep producing this style.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

More oloroso then…

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1991/2017 (50.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, for Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #5436)

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1991/2017 (50.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, for Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #5436) Five stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: it's a full-on sherry profile with aromas of dried beef, game, walnut wine, bitter chocolate, dried flat parsley, natural wood polish, a cigar box (holding closer to 50 rather than 25 cigars), and mint. Quite spectacular. With water: consistent, no additions. Perhaps a few metallic touches, old tools, an aged saucepan, an old kettle… Mouth (neat): a splendid sherry character, robust but not overpowering, very much featuring chocolate, caramel, black nougat, toasted walnuts and pecans, espresso coffee… And there's hardly a hint of sugar. With water: oh yes, quite beautiful, becoming salty. Miso, umami, Maggi… This very 'glutamatey' aspect is quite satisfying. Finish: it continues on the same notes, plus a bit of pepper, lingering for quite some time. Comments: Taiwanese big boy. Our friends in Taiwan tend to sweep up the superb sherry casks, one must watch out (I'm jesting, we adore them).
SGP:662 - 90 points.

For a change, a bit of Marsala...

Bunnahabhain 15 yo 2002/2018 (53.1%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala finish, casks #3061-62, 507 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 15 yo 2002/2018 (53.1%, Wilson & Morgan, Marsala finish, casks #3061-62, 507 bottles) Four stars
I quite like the fact that our Italian friends at W&M are championing their national 'sherries', the Marsalas. There you have it, I'm a dead man. Anyway, I'm not exactly an expert in Marsala… Colour: white wine. Nose: this is not sherry. There are very pretty notes of small white fruits, cherries, and white currants, little apples, then some light beech smoke, bread dough, and sourdough... I quite like this. With water: it becomes floral, with rose petals and honeysuckle. The honeysuckles at WF Towers are in full bloom, you should see how fragrant they are! Mouth (neat): it combines well, though there's a slightly sulphurous edge at first. It continues with loads of peaches in all sorts and forms, plus a very slight muscat note. With water: the honeysuckle returns, with honey and a bit of cane syrup, which is less interesting, we agree. Finish: medium length, sweeter notes prevailing. Comments: I think one can easily overlook this kind of malt because it's not very classic, but if you engage with it, it has some very nice things to say. With flowers! What type of Marsala was this?
SGP:641 - 86 points.

What if we had one without sherry or any other wines?

Bunnahabhain 30 yo 1987/2017 (48.3%, A.D. Rattray, Vintage Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #1298, 243 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 30 yo 1987/2017 (48.3%, A.D. Rattray, Vintage Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #1298, 243 bottles) Five stars
Is it still possible to find a bottle like this, seven years on? My goodness, seven years already! Colour: gold. Nose: it's like the 1976 but with more oomph, more tension, more precision, mainly focused on a beehive, with its honey, beeswax, and pollen, then overripe apples and the nectar from flowers like dandelions. It's very beautiful and honestly, blindfolded, I would have guessed it was from 1972 or 1976. I know, the concept of vintages is dubious when it comes to whiskies. Unless I'm wrong, generally, it's barley from the previous year that they're using; anyway. Mouth: only a slight hint of intrusive woodiness might prevent it from reaching the heights of a 91+. Aside from that, the vanilla pod custard, acacia flower fritters, notes of fresh panettone, earl grey, and Middle-Eastern pastries (stay strong!) are sublime. I need some good synonyms for sublime, without veering too much into the clownish or the sexist, as the whisky world has already been there, done that. If you have any ideas, send me a postcard. Finish: quite long, a bit mentholated and aniseed. Drops of sweet absinthe. Comments: should they really peat all this magnificent malt concocted by those somewhat chubby but so elegant stills?
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Well, things are going rather well, we've successfully dodged the peated ones so far (it's easy, you can tell because they are younger).

Bunnahabhain 30 yo 1990/2020 (58.6%, Alambic Classique, Rare Old Selection, oloroso sherry cask, cask #20027, 114 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 30 yo 1990/2020 (58.6%, Alambic Classique, Rare Old Selection, oloroso sherry cask, cask #20027, 114 bottles) Five stars
Colour: amber. Nose: Is it Christmas already? There's an abundance of fruitcake, but with all the Bunnahabhain elegance reminiscent of legendary bottles like 'Auld Acquaintance' (now, that was a splendid name!). Exquisite notes of blackcurrant buds followed by indeed figs and dates, candied bananas, cooked caramel, toffee, Mars bars as if prepared by a three-star chef, spruce honey, teriyaki beef jerky, and gianduja... Well, it's simply perfect. With water: it turns more herbal, more resinous. Propolis and beeswax. Mouth (neat): what can I say. Honeys, chocolates, toffees, caramels, plus coastal notes, dried apricots, cured meats, sweet liquorice, candied citrus, roasted peanuts, old Demerara rum... With water: beeswax and rancio (think Rivesaltes, Malaga, Banyuls…) now come to the fore. Finish: long, balanced, not overwhelming, almost fresh, with orange lingering in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe my sample came from a bottle that had been open for at least a few months. That's generally what big sherry 'monsters' need; it's best not to taste them right after opening the bottle. They need some oxygen, as Diane Dusfresne is singing. Better still: cellar them for twenty or thirty years.
SGP:652 - 91 points.

Let's stop here. Yes, already, but nothing could 'top' the Alambic Classique anyway. I mean, nothing in the stash.

(Merci Tom)

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







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