"A great experience and a successful experiment, I think the finishing in Brandy casks was spot on and works really well with the peated distillate"
(Photo from Whiskybase)
You could say that Bunnahabhain is an odd one out on Islay with most of its releases being unpeated sherry-matured whiskies. As you might know, Bunnahbhain did produce heavy peated whiskies in the past. The distillery ceased doing its own floor maltings and started using unpeated barley malt from an outside supplier in 1963, stimulated by an increasing demand for unpeated spirit by the blending industry. Ever since Burn Stewart took over the distillery in 2003, the quest to revive the production of peated whisky intensified, lead by master distiller Ian MacMillan. He named it “Mòine” (Gaelic for peat) aiming to create a peat-phenol level between 35 and 40 ppm, comparable to the old Bunnahabhain and similar to that of Islay neighbor Lagavulin. An important difference is that the modern Bunnahabhain distillery possesses larger stills, which are supposed to produce a sweeter distillate. The Bunnahabhain Moine without age statement was added to the standard range in 2016. In addition, specially selected versions have been released, including the subject of this review, selected by senior blender Dr Kirstie McCallum. Dstilled in 2004, this received an experimental 3-year-finish in French brandy casks.
The initial whiff is quite coastal, with a spray of brine and a hint of sea weed. Then comes the coal smoke and ashes mixed up with some fresh peat. However, when you wait just a little bit longer, the brandy starts to shine. Sweet raisins and currants, black currant juice, polished wood, red grapes, all beautifully balanced by an underlying nuttiness with a salty edge. Everything gets fully integrated into the whirlpool of smoke, sea water and brandy, into which a bag of salty nuts has been thrown. Also I get intense orange liquor, some lemon skin, along with some dried oranges and prunes.
The smoke is much more on the forefront. Coal smoke with a sour edge, carbon paper, vegetal peat and a few drops of lemon juice. There are some dried figs and prunes, along with salty nuts and sea weed, but the brandy finish is much less noticeable on the palate. Lingering nuts, red grape juice and coal smoke persist for several minutes. Another sip? Hell yeah! Red wine, more smoke, lime skin, grapefruit, orange, leather, and Fisherman’s Friend.
A great experience and a successful experiment. I think the finishing in Brandy casks was spot on and works really well with the peated distillate. If this is going to be the standard for the Moine range, we are in for a treat.
A big thanks to for sharing the sample!
• these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •