SMWS 10.134 Cleaner than a ship’s whistle (Bunnahabhain 2008)

"One of those drams that keeps me nosing and sipping it all evening, trying to identify all the nuances and uncover its mysteries displaying a wonderful balance between cask and spirit, and a side of Bunnahabhain that is new (at least to me)"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

Bunnahabhain 2008

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Although the classic range of Bunnahabhain is primarily based on maturation in sherry casks, Burn Stewart have been pushing for a return to the smokiness from old days since they took over the distillery. Nowadays, approximately 20% of the spirit they produce is heavily peated and their range includes permanent and temporary peated expressions such as Moine and Toiteach. More than that, for many years peated Bunnahabhain has been very popular among independent bottlers. Personally, I have already tasted the Moine Brandy Finish, and was pleasanty suprised.

Besides tasting another (hopely good) peated Bunnahabhain, this review will also be the start of a first little journey back in time. To somewhat fill up my gap of experience in tasting whiskies from yesteryear, I have acquired a couple of hands full of whisky(samples) dating back from the 00s to the 60s, and which should be awesome based on what I have heard and read. As you can imagine, I am very eager to start tasting these small pieces of history.

This Bunnahabhain from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a remnant of my short membership of the SMWS (I will write more on my experiences with them later). It has been in my possession for a few months now, and I can already say that I was once again impressed with the direction Bunnahabhain is going with their young peated versions. I presume this could be a perfect choice to begin my historical countdown of peated whisky in the 00s.

Nose

A sweet and farm-y kind of peat, which reminds me of some good spirit from other distilleries (Lagavulin, Ledaig, Port Charlotte). Not too punchy, despite the young age and high alcohol percentage, and reassuringly complex. Add to that a mixture of oils, creamed potatoes, bonfire ashes, magazines and burned bread crust, with all the different components perfectly in balance. Behind this there is a fruity backbone of oranges and smoked peaches. The fruits become more prominent after a while, which is very enjoyable, and a creamier and sweeter blanket overlays the nose. Sugar covered sweets, maybe even a hint of marshmallows, followed by the freshness of a sea breeze. After adding some water, I get some tense smoked vanilla, apple pie and roasted coffee beans. Very enjoyable.

Taste

The peat is kicks in strong accompanied by ashes, smoked cream (this would be a really good idea, anyone got a recipe?) and grapefruit juice. When it has settled on your tongue (take a small sip, otherwise it might end up be numb), then smoked peaches, orange skin, bonfire smoke, smoked salt and sea water come through. A mouth full of sea water and a few grains of beach sand, maybe even some sea weed. Water makes more acrid and ashy, so not per se recommendable. A long aftertaste remains in the mouth where peat smoke and sweetness boldly intertwine.

Overall

This was released by SMWS under the ‘Coastal and Oily’ colour code (dark blue), which it definitely holds true. Surprisingly close to Lagavulin territory, although they are on opposite sides of the Island. Or maybe Ledaig. Both are distilleries that I am very fond of, so no surprise that this Bunna is also very much to my liking. It displays a wonderful balance between cask and spirit, and a side of Bunnahbhain that is new (at least to me). It is one of those drams that keeps me nosing and sipping all evening, trying to identify all the nuances and uncover its mysteries. 

What others say

Whiskybase: 86.67 (5 votes) * @Phillipstorry: 4.5/5
Read for yourself

A bottle of this was purchased from

Scores

these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
35%
Peat/smoke
70%
Nose 89%
Taste 88%
Balance 88%
Depth 87.5%
Finish 87%
Score