The closest link between the people that make wine and the people that drink it
Being a multi-award-winning independent bottler of single cask whiskies makes for some splendid surprises sometimes. Whilst tasting through our inventory of barrels sleeping peacefully in Scotland, we occasionally chance upon two whiskies from the same distillery, both drinking beautifully, at very different ages. Even more rarely, we find three differently aged samples of the same spirit that charm, fascinate and bludgeon us into bottling them as swiftly as possible.
In the closing weeks of 2012, we were sampling some stocks of Bunnahabhain Single Malt and three such stunners shone out. This was made all the more fascinating by the unusual nature of the distillery involved. In most instances, Bunnahabhain Single Malt is made of malted barley that has been dried using a fuel source other than peat so as not to impart any smoky, medicinal, iodine-like flavours. On occasion, Bunnahabhain produces batches of spirit made of barley that has been imbued with the pungent (some would say acrid!) smell of peat-smoke as it was drying. Each sample had come from a differently-treated batch of spirit, one was un-peated, another had been lightly-peated and the last one heavily-peated. It takes some time to work through the unglamorous but necessary logistics of bottling a cask of Scotch whisky and now, finally, the three drams we tasted last winter have, in my view, led to a stimulating comparison.
This whisky displays some classic Bunnahabhain charm. The enchanting nose gives fruit notes with a little marzipan, some jute cloth and spice. The palate is layered, rich with building sooty intensity as the flavours displayed on the nose develop.
This whisky is a fascinating expression of Bunnahabhain. On the nose, I’m transported to a favourite oyster bar. A dozen, freshly shucked Rock oysters, gentle iodine, even the oak bench. On the palate, the bright sea-air continues through, wafting soft smoke and spice. The finish lingers and tingles like a North Sea sunset.
This whisky bludgeons the senses unlike any other Bunnahabhain. Enormous, billowing bonfires of peat and wood-smoke dominate the nose, battering the hints of sweet vanilla and coconut into blissful submission. The palate, is massive, monumental, almost monolithic, and is only balanced by the luscious creamy oak and an unctuous wave of supporting alcohol.
All three of these whiskies are available to taste in our St James’s Street Shop whilst stocks last, and when bottling one barrel at a time, usually that is not very long. I look forward to continuing my Whisky journey, and sharing in yours, as you visit us and explore this extraordinary Islay distillery.