About the whisky
A bright and herbal Bunnahabhain from the 1990s, which ticked all the boxes for character traits we love from this era. A great example of the diversity of flavour which can be found on the powerhouse whisky island of Islay, this Bunnahabhain is an unpeated dram packed with all the maritime nature that we have come to expect from the region.
Distilled early enough to exhibit some of the gentler, praline-led nature of older releases, while also showing signs of the newer, more phenolic, coastal style, this is an expression described by Serge Valentin at WhiskyFun as “Superb whisky, I’m afraid these batches are now to be taken very seriously. Extremely seriously.”
About the region Islay
This Hebridean island, which has become best known for its peaty, coastal influenced, iodine-rich whiskies, has a surprisingly high number of distilleries for such a small island. It is thought by some historians that distillation reached Ireland via Islay in the 13th century, which would explain the vital role nearby Islay plays in Scotland’s whisky industry. Plagued by terrible weather and torrential rainfall, distillers on Islay take advantage of the resulting expansive peat bogs, by choosing to malt their barley over burning peat. This highly phenolic liquid has long been in demand from blenders, but has also attracted those in search of a distinctive and powerful single malt. Yet, Islay displays remarkable diversity, with the likes of Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich and Caol Ila producing both peated and unpeated malts.
About Bunnahabhain distillery
Testament to the wide variety of styles that can be found on the island whisky powerhouse of Islay, Bunnahabhain malt is surprisingly mild and largely unpeated, though the distillery was originally founded in 1881 to provide peaty whiskies to the blending industry. The distillery’s name is Gaelic for ‘mouth of the river’, referencing the Margadale river from whose clear spring water the whisky is distilled, on the sheltered shores of the Sound of Islay. All Bunnahabhain casks are stored on site on the island of Islay, giving ample opportunity for the casks to breathe the sea air, a fact that likely contributes to the whisky’s pronounced salty, maritime notes.
Bunnahabhain 28 year old Tasting Notes – Jim Murray’s Whisky bible 2021
Bunna is found on the seashore of Islay… and this nose had been taken right to the very edge. It wreaks of salty seadog, the brine entangled with the ancient oak of the vessel.
Though the delivery is jaded, the oak having that peculiarly glassy feel unique to exhausted malts, there is also no getting away from the fact that this exudes a genteel old-worldliness than one might mistake for a 50-year-old rather than something just about approaching its 30th year. Indeed, it has managed to turn the weariness of the oak into an attribute and at the same times somehow manages to concentrate the richness of the barley tenfold…
Tired and creaking… but still has the elegance and wherewithal to finish the job with a salty, malty flourish.
Old school, proper unpeated Bunna – the way it used to be when at its best under Highland Distillers’ ownership. However, this has never been a malt that has aged particularly well and has a habit of starting to fall apart by the time it is about 25-y-o. So much to like here, indeed revere: the astonishingly salty nose and, after a faltering start, fabulous concentrated malt, thick and lush, on delivery. But after the midpoint, balance is compromised as the tannin notes fail to find a balancing malty answer. This is probably about four-years past where I’d really like it to be. Occasionally truly outstanding very old Bunnas make it through – but it is a rare phenomenon. This is borderline brilliant. Incidentally, I stayed at the Bunnahabhain distillery on holiday back in 1991: it was truly the last real vacation I ever had.