Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bunnahabhain - is it malty ?

The start of 2011 hasn't been optimal from a whisky drinking perspective for me. Flu, colds, coughs, soaring head and sleepy days. Time to catch up, and I thought going through a few dregs of Bunnahabhains that has been restless on my shelves for quite a bit might be good for me. This is the first day of 3 weeks of holiday, which will include quite a bit of travel and a lot of whisky so also a reason to celebrate :-)

Bunnahabhain is one of the lesser known Islays, if saying "lesser known" for an Islay makes any sense at all. I have always felt that Bunnahabhain is one of the better known secret gems out there.

Bunnahabhain with a pap in the background

The location of Bunnahabhain (and Caol Ila) is one of the most beatiful spots on the planet earth. Next to the Sound of Islay, with the Paps of Jura breathtaking looking down on you from the other side.

 Bunnahabhain and the Paps of Jura

 The distillery has received a little more attention from the owners the last couple of years, with the standard 12yo being upgraded to 46.3% and nonchillfiltered, but also a few special bottlings getting out to us. Bunnahabhain is, unlike most other Islay's, an unpeated malt whisky. But they did a few peated batch runs, earliest one is the Moine variation from 1997. Apart from the peated malts we have also recently seen a Bunnahabhain that has been matured on fresh oak,the Bunnahabhain Darach Ur.
In 2004 the distillery released a 1968 single cask, the legendary Old Acquiantance, one of my all time favourite whiskies, since then a few older OB's has been released, together with an extension of the range with a 18yo and 25yo and so on.
Various independent bottlers has released quite a lot of Bunnahabhains over the years. So there's actually an opportunity for quite a big background catalogue if you get around these. And it's usually a very good malt in my opinion.
 I often find Bunnahabhains very very malty, and this is a little scientific research to see if this a common distillery profile tasting note!
Bunnahabhain Tour in 2001

I will go through 5 bottlings of Bunnahabhains, and try to rate their maltiness on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being very malty, 3 quite malty, and 1 sligtly more malty than an average malt. I don't find malt whiskies malty in general. I can say I would rate almost all malts a 0 on this scale. I am meaning malty in a beer/ale kind of sense.

1. Bunnahabhain 1979 Flying no. 6 Pirate 46.3%
cask 11885 (Barrel). Distilled 31/10-1979, bottled 8/9-2008
Bottled by Juul's Vinhandel, Copenhagen, 1 of 199 bottles

Juul's series of PING and Flying has become world famous legends here in Denmark :-), and this Bunnahabhain is one og my favourite Flying's

This is a light Bunna, with a lot of spice, mint and a wee bit of citrus and with quite some maltiness. 

Maltiness 4/5

Rating 89

2. Bunnahabhain 33yo Royal Mile Whiskies 45.5%
cask 6249, 1 of 201 bottles

33yo Bunna from RMW

This is a bottling from Royal Mile Whiskies, and Edinburgh specialist whiskyshop.

This is not as light as the Pirate. First thing I note is a slight sulphur on the nose. The body is heavier, some spice, and still a bit of sulphur on the palate, but probably so little that quite a few wouldn't notice

Maltiness 1/4 

Rating 86

2. Bunnahabhain 31yo Falster 2008 47.3%
Bottled by Creative (David Stirk)
Distilled 1976

This Bunnahabhain is bottled for the danish whiskyfestival Wild Whisky Weekend by DMWA

This is a very delicious Bunnahabhain, with a slight maltiness, spicy again, sweeter than the others. The best so far. The finish is longer and really delicious. I think the sweetness completes this malt. It's not a sweet malt, but the sweetness is noticable compared to the other malts. 
Magnificient dram and I do agree on The Whisky Exchanges review here : and you can find a more articulate set of tasting notes in there as well :-)

Maltiness 1/4

Rating 90

4. Bunnahabhain 36yo Duncan Taylor 40.2%
03/1967 - 03/2003
cask 3325

A lot of the first Duncan Taylor bottlings were near going understrength, so there were quite busy bottling a lot of old whiskies before they went under 40% ABV. I don't think the world will ever see that amount of "cheap" old whisky on the market..oh the good old days :-)

The maltiness in this whisky is a bit different, it seems somewhat milder, as does almost everything is this whisky. The wood influence seems a lot less. There's a bit of fruit candy in this, and not particular spicy

Maltiness 2/5

Rating 85

5. Bunnahabhain 36yo Duncan Taylor 40.7%
1967 - 2004

A Duncan Taylor miniature

This is a malty Bunna, with a shot of citrus in, quite a big shot and a very delicious combo. Some sweetness and a medium finish, with a bit of spicyness as well

Maltiness 3/5

Rating 89

Verdict ?

Yes, I find the common note in Bunnahabhain to be a very malty malt, think of a low hoppped brown ale. There's quite a variation in the maltiness, but it's always there to some extent


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