Reviewed by: Ted
I would like to start out by saying that I am a big fan of Bunnahabhain (so this review is not going to be biased in the slightest). Yes, we all know that Islay is famous for its heavily peated drams, but I have a definite soft spot for this gentle islander.
I’ve actually been to the distillery, a few miles up the coast from Port Askaig, but to my eternal discontent I haven’t actually done the tour as we were pressed for time and had several other tours booked that day. The buildings may look rather grey and foreboding, but the people are so friendly and warm. Please pop by and say hello to them if you get a chance.
I really got a taste for Bunna on the ferry on the way over to Islay because it was the dram of the month and they were pouring doubles. Standing on deck in the blasting wind and watching the islands of Islay and Jura hove into view with a warming glass of Bunnahabhain in hand definitely leaves a lasting impression on a lad.
While I may have cut my teeth on the Bunna 12 Year Old, I recently acquired a bottle of the 18 Year Old and tell you what, it’s pretty exceptional. Bunnahabhain dials back the peat hit in favour of softer, earthier flavours. The nose is rather like tramping around the rolling interior of the island, bringing forth moss, springy peat-laden soil, wind-twisted woods and the occasional gust of salty sea breeze (plus the colour is like the dark waters of the lochs that stud the landscape).
Other flavours floating through the air include roasted chestnuts, dark chocolate, spit roasted lamb with salt and rosemary, stewed quinces and brandy-soaked raisins (sherry casking par excellence).
The mouth is quite salty, but strikes an elegant balance, like a high quality piece of salted caramel served with delicate slices of pear poached in butter and sprinkled with brown sugar. The finish is rounded, warm and comforting, like curling up on a squishy couch in front of a glowing fire on a cold night.
While I rather enjoy getting smacked in the face with a massive slab of Ileach peat, there’s something about the softer side of Islay that keeps drawing me back again and again. One day I will return to Bunnahabhain and explore it properly, but until then I will sit back with a glass of the 18 Year Old, close my eyes and be transported back to one of the most magical places in the world.
Well I’m not gonna read this now as it’s 3 AM but…I finally am through an annis horribulous for writing and have a lot of reading and writing to catch up on…Which will include you wafflers and a wall of whiskies to review. Whick includes a 21 year old Berry’s bottling of Bunna which I really liked. So, yeah, stakes are high. 😀
Ooo, that does sound good. I’ve got a bottle of 13yo Bunna by Dun Bheagan that I’m keen to bust out sometime. I look forward to reading your scribblings. Hooray for breaking the writing drought!
Keep on waffling,
We did Scotland this last year. Fantastic trip. Bunna was a must-go and we did the tour. I’ll do a write up in a couple weeks (building towards that, you see). It’s intimate, very informal, great folks like you say and we had a startlingly wonderful time. Can’t recommend it enough. After the lawyer-constrained tours at certain other establishments, getting to see Bunna was like visiting family. Also, had the Bunna 18 after a big walking day (the Port Ellen walk up to Ardbeg) and the proprietor of our Inn had secured the last bottle on the island. Wowser stuff, and of course even better given the snug sitting room of a small Scottish inn and their excellent hospitality..
Oh man – this makes me so excited! I’m going back to Scotland in a few months! And will be visiting 7 out of the 8 Islay distilleries while I’m there with Bunna top of the list! Cannot wait!
Keep on waffling,
Lucky man! Hint, and trust me here…ask to use the restroom. You’ll pass by the maltmaster’s office and a really lovely old safe. Nice digs. Victorian wainscotting
One of my favourite unpeated releases from Islay. It reminds me of the ocean without any of the sea notes.