I’m going through my samples and picked out this Bunnahabhain from my birth year. Wemyss doesn’t tend to give out too much information. It comes from a hogshead and produced 310 bottles.
Nose: Hmm, quite a shifty nose and the alcohol is making its presence known. Quite a bit of mint and white pepper. Typical vanilla and honey notes and some salty coastalness. There seems to be some furniture polish in here as well. With water, there are some more fruity notes. Mainly mango and unripe banana.
Palate: It’s letting you taste the 25 long years it spent in a casks. Quite a dusty, even rusty impression with a slight metallic note. Ever so slight smoke and a mineral note too. Some lemons to lead us into the finish.
Finish: A medium long finish with hints of vanilla, leather and pepper.
It has to be said, I’m somewhat let down by this dram. For it’s age it’s not particularly well rounded and there’s quite a bit of unexpected smells and tastes.
On May 22, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society held a tasting at Campbeltown’s Ardshiel Hotel to taste some of their bottlings for the Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown festivals.
Luckily for me, they also streamed the tasting live, and members of the SMWS were able to buy samples of each of the five whiskies to be tasted.
The livestream was in a seperate room from the in person tasting, which meant we were able to create our own atmosphere in the chatroom. Unfortunately, there were some technical hick-ups, but the presentation was quite engaging. Either way, what counts most is the quality of the drams.
Glen Grant 2007, SMWS 9.161 “Cream Tea at the Patisserie” | 60.9% ABV | Bottled 2019
We started things off with a young Glen Grant aged for 11 years in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel. It’s labeled under the SMWS flavour profile “Sweet, Fruity & Mellow”.
Color: Pale gold.
Nose: The citrus is immediately apparent. Tons of lemon hits your nose. Digging in a little bit, it’s like being in a pastry shop (I guess their naming is on point). Lemon pie and cookie-dough, it needs a while to open up though. There’s a sweet sugar note too, think icing sugar. Orange marmelade. With water, the doughy notes come through a bit pore prominently, but the lemons are still at the forefront.
Palate: Quite a strong arrival. Sugary at first, but fades into tart lemons. Some orange zest and little Petit Beurre cookies. After some time, I get the appearance of a little whipped cream.
Finish: Short to medium lenght. Lemon, of course. A hint of salt and yeast. Some peppers, ginger and cinnamon show themselves here too.
This one really only opens up after adding some water and giving it some time. It’s a nice opener for the night, but a bit too heavy on the lemon for me.
On to the second Speysider of the night. This 21 year old Glenrothes has spent 19 years of it’s life in an ex-oloroso butt and was then finished for 2 years in a 2nd fill Pedro Ximénez butt. According to the SMWS, the flavour profile of this should be “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits”.
Color: Amber with a nice orange hue.
Nose: Oh this is inviting. Walnuts, prunes, dried figs, dried dates. Some sweet raisins and a very rum-like note. I like this nose, a lot. With water: some strawberries come into the mix.
Palate: Surprisingly soft and smooth arrival. This doesn’t mean the flavour isn’t there though. Lots of dark red fruits. Raisins, plums and prunes. Some tannins from the cask, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. With water, the tannins come out a bit more. A very very sweet one, this Glenrothes, as I would expect from a PX-cask. But still nicely balanced.
Finish: The sweetness lingers and a slight herbal and menthol note appears. A bit of a sticky mouthfeel, makes you want to go for another sip. Luckily, the finish is quite long.
I’m not the biggest fan of whisky that is very heavily influenced by sherry, but this is an excellent example of good cask management.
Another “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits” flavour profile, but I’m quite sure this will be quite different to the Glenrothes. It has spent 16 years in an American oak oloroso butt and another 3 years in a Spanish oak oloroso butt.
Color: Mahogany, the color is surprising yet inviting.
Nose: Well, it’s Laphroaig so the presence of peat shouldn’t be stated. However, it’s quite subdued. Lot’s and lot’s of liquorice. Figs and prunes too, as well as a minty note. With water: Old leather, a dusty leather armchair in an antique store. Ever so slight hint of petrol too.
Palate: The peat gives a definite kick here, more than the nose lead me to assume. Quite a briny, iodine note too. Adding water, the leather note comes through much more. Fresh figs and orange zest. Poached pears and pecans.
Finish: A long finish with notes of peatsmoke, ash, tobacco leaves, leather and an ever so slight hint of blueberry.
This is great stuff. Very nice marriage between the spirit and the cask. The age is noticeable, but it’s still more than lively enough.
Time for another Islay bottling, but this time without the peat. A 13 year old Bunnahabhain from a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, bottled at a very healthy 61.8% ABV. The SMWS flavour profile here is “Oily & Coastal”.
Color: Light gold
Nose: Immediate banana, luckily I don’t have any minions in the house. Hints of tequila too. Some salt, but not the brine I’m used to in Bunnahabhain. Salted popcorn, that’s more like it. With water, some oysters and ever so slight elderflower notes. Banana-vanilla pudding, those yellow Petit Gervais yoghurts if you’ve ever had those.
Palate: Sweet and salty. Fruit de mer, crabcakes. White fruit too, mostly peach. Some brine here, and seaweed. A tonic note too. With water: more honey and vanilla notes. The seasalt comes through more clearly. Oh, and dried pineapple!
Finish: On the shorter side, although we’ve been spoiled with the previous two. Peaches, salt and aha, we have found the olives!
If you’d give this to me blind, I wouldn’t guess it’s an Islay malt. Still quite nice nonetheless.
Our final dram of the evening is a Campbeltown whisky. Our hosts tell us it’s not Springbank nor Glengyle. Of course, we could just Google the distillery number, right? It spent 10 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel. This should be lightly peated.
Color: Light gold.
Nose: Exotic fruits, lead by pineapples and lychee. A slight green vegetable note, peas perhaps? In the back there’s some freshly baked croissants and white chocolate.
Palate: I love it when a whisky can deliver what it promises on the nose. Pineapples aplenty, some papaya and lychee too. There’s a grassy and earthiness to this, which I get quite often with this not Springbank nor Glengyle distillery. Also, the peat is a bit louder than on the nose here, adding a nice counternote to the sweet fruits.
Finish: A minty eucalyptus note, toothpaste. Fresh green herbs and peaches to make sure the sweetness sustains. Nice and long finish.
I really like this one. Then again, I tend to like Glen Scotia so it isn’t a huge surprise.
For me, Bunnahabhain is the Islay distillery that stays somewhat off my radar. When people think of Islay, they think of heavy hitting peatbombs. Bunnahabhain shows Islay whisky can also have a softer side, bottling mostly unpeated whisky.
Ruhba A’ Mhail is one of the Feis Ile 2015 bottlings. It was aged for 11 years in Manzanilla casks and there are 1200 bottles available. It’s bottled at 57% ABV.
Color: Quite dark, amber +1
Nose: Whew, this one will take some time to dissect. The sweet sherry notes are most obvious, plums and raisins. It’s bit nippy on the nose, but this smooths out after some time in the glass. Some earth and mineral notes start appearing, alongside some citrus. There’s also a yeasty note.
Palate: It starts off very oily, mostly diesel with a filthy side. Then comes the sherry influence in the form of orange peels. The earthy note from the nose is still present.
Finish: Medium long with lingering diesel and earth. At the end some lemon comes out.
It’s an intriguing dram, you need to spend some time with it before it shows all it’s colors. If you can get your hands on a sample, taste it. The quite unusual casks offer an interesting experience.