Category Archives: Bunnahabhain

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar dram # 23 – A.D. Rattray’s 27yo Bunnahabhain, Cask # 626


Region – Islay – ABV – 55.4%

Advent Calendar day # 23.

I can’t believe we’re almost near the end!  This has been a fun ride and I can not thank Secret Spirits enough for asking me to join in on their Calendar review this year.  Thank you, thank you.

A thousand times, thank you!

You know life is good when you can try a new whisky every single day for 25 days.  I hope you properly thanked the person that purchased this calendar for you.

If you purchased this calendar for yourself, well, you’ve been thanking yourself for the past 23 days!

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015Today is especially good because there is a 27yo Scotch whisky in my glass.

If you’re reading this while you’re dramming on the same whisky, ask yourself: what were you doing 27 years ago and what has happened in your life over the past 27 years.

Perspective is a good thing. It helps me to better appreciate what’s in my glass, that’s for sure.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015On the nose — Like drunkly stumbling into a sherry bodega and smashing open all of the casks, this is a massively sherried whisky!

Heavy oak presence. Burnt biscuits, hot dates, toasted walnuts, fig cake, and rubber gloves.

Overly toasted nooks and/or crannies, singed nose hairs (it does sting the nose a bit), first press virgin olive oil, and olive wood.

With water some wonderful bing cherries come out as does a hint of lingonberry jam.

In the mouth — Massive spice on this one.

Like a driver on his way to the hospital with a pregnant wife, the pepper overtakes you! You’ve really got to ease yourself into this mambajamba.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015Jolt cola, fresh peppercorns, fig newtons, more Jolt cola, salted caramels.

Very fizzy on the tongue. Spice along the sides of the tongue.

With water the oak comes out and tannins kick in.

Ugh, it becomes tired with water. Should not have added water…

Finish — (without water) Really bright and still cola-like. Long and peppery.

In sum — Water was a bad choice but hey, life is a series of mistakes you (should be) learn(ing) from. Did I love this whisky? No. It was a little to peppery and focused on the cola notes. Did I enjoy sampling it? Heck yeah. I hope you did, too.

It was a good deal of fun.

Abbey Whisky’s Bunnahabhain from their Rare Casks series. A 23yo elegant stunner.


Abbey Whisky BunnahabhainIslay region – 44%ABV – £80 (only available from Abbey Whisky)

I’m going to limit the preamble in today’s review because the whisky is going to be better than anything I have to say.

Let me quickly say, however, that Abbey Whisky seems to be on to something here, and that something is choosing good casks of whisky to bottle.  First they released a 17yo Caperdonich and now they have this 23yo peated Bunnahabhain.

Peated Bunnahabhain can be hit or miss but this one, good people, is a total hit.  Check it:

On the nose  Peated Bunnahabhain is *so* peated Bunnahabhain.  Quite unique.

Peppery upfront but the peat is soft which I am guessing is due to the 23 years in the refill bourbon cask.

Abbey-Whisky-Bunnahabhain-Rare-CasksSmoked and dried granny smith apples.  Bit-o-Honey candies (a wonderful honey and nutty mix of flavors).

Wildflower greens (minus the flowers) gives this whisky a very late summery feel.

A touch of pool water here as well.

Though bottled at 44% ABV, the peppery quality gives it a touch of sting in the nose.

Abbey-Whisky-Bunnahabhain-Rare-CasksHeavily salted Tomato Juice (like the V8 Spicy Hot stuff).  So far so yummy.

On the mouth Soft, delicate and nowhere near as peaty on the mouth as it was on the nose.

Very vegetal (as the nose suggested) with hints of lemon, minus any sugar that might be associated with lemons.

Abbey-Whisky-Bunnahabhain-Rare-CasksMedicinal and Listerine like but in a very comforting way.  Those wildflower greens are gone but the flowers make themselves know.

This is, ummm, lovely stuff and it begins to grow in intensity as the finish nears.

Finish Lovely spice and great Islay character.  The finish sticks to your gullet and you’re happy for that!

In sum One of the better, older, peated Bunnys I’ve ever had.  Like grilled peanut butter and jelly on seeded rye bread, all of pieces go together so well for me.  I sort of wish I had a full bottle to open and share with friends in a single night.  We’ll finish together in a few hours.  Yeah, it’s that good.

Special thanks to MS of Abbey Whisky for the surprise sample!

It’s not everyday that I get a mention on Islay’s “The Ileach” newspaper…


Special thanks to my good friend Andy for pointing this one out to me and sending the pic (as blurry as it is)!

Oh, and in other news, Bruichladdich just sold to Remy Cointreau…

In case you missed my Islay Distillery/Rock Band comparison posts, here is a link to each one:

  1. Part one:Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols
  2. Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer
  3. Part three: Caol Ila as The 80′s (They get their very own decade!)
  4. Part four:Bowmore as David Bowie
  5. Part five: Kilchoman as the Jackson Five (somewhat fitting, in retrospect, with them both bearing the number five).
  6. Part six: Bunnahabhain as R.E.M.
  7. Part seven: Lagavulin as Led Zeppelin
  8. Part eight: Laphroaig as Iggy Pop

Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 6 – Bunnahabhain & my review of the 20yo Single Sherry cask from Master of Malt

Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part VI (of VIII)

I was hoping to get part six of this series up last week but time just got away from me. Having only three more Islay/Rock posts left (including today’s post), I’ll be sad to see this series end.

Here’s one of the beauties of Islay: We’re going from young, brash and heavily peated Kilchoman, to older and gentler, Bunnahabhain.  Bunnahabhain’s tagline is “Welcome to the gentle taste of Islay.”

Known as Islay’s [basically] unpeated whisky, Bunnahabhain is also known for often being generously sherried.  Today’s whisky, though not bottled by Bunnahabhain, is no exception to this generalization.

Before we move forward, let’s quick run down the Islay distilleries & their rock and roll equivalents we’ve covered so far — Part one:Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80′s (They get their very own decade!), Part four:Bowmore as David Bowie and Part five: Kilchoman as the Jackson Five (somewhat fitting, in retrospect, with them both bearing the number five).

Today we’re reviewing a 20yo Bunnahabhain bottled by Master of Malt.  Sadly, this bottling is completely sold out however, Master of Malt still have some of this as part of their “Drinks by the Dram” offering.  I’m glad I bought a bottle before they were all sold out!

20yo Bunnahabhain – 54.1%ABV – bottled by Master of MaltSold Out (though you can get a 3cl sample of it for only £5/$7)

On the nose What you’d come to expect with a heavily sherried whisky (and I mean heavily):  Furniture polish, cherry stones, tanned leather, rum balls and/or tiramasu, stewed prunes, burning cigars, unlit cigars (dark wrappers)… You name it, it’s in here and nicely organized.

On top of this is a very evident woody note… Oaky and I can almost smell the tannins.

With water and there’s some added unlit pipe tobacco (floral and reminiscent of some hookah stuff I’ve smoked before) and dark chocolates.

On the mouth MASSIVE ATTACK.  It’s like all of the aforementioned items I got on the nose were jammed into my mouth.  Thinnish mouthfeel and highly drying.  Hmmm… a bit too oaky given its age.  Let me try some water here.  ¡¡Agua al rescate!!


The mouth feel is saved and there less heat and less attack upon entry.

The flavors seem to match the nose (again) yet the addition of chocolate covered raisins and wafts of light smoke offer up something quite delicious.

Still a bit drying which leads me to the finish…

Finish Somehow my mouth starts to water as the whisky continues to dry in a long and slightly spicy finish.

In sum  This whisky is a powerhouse, no doubt.  Without water, it’s a difficult whisky to drink.  With a dash of water, it’s delicious (yet the oak will not be subdued and therefore, it’s a bit off balance).

An autumn whisky for sure.  This’ll warm you – boy, will it warm you!


Bunnahabhain – The Band!

With Michael Stipe’s unique voice rising over the band’s overall unmistakable sound and while every song was quite different, every song was very much R.E.M.

Like them or not (and I happen to love them), you can’t argue with this fact.

The same could ring true with Bunnahabhain.  While they do experiment with peated and ex-bourbon expressions such as “Toiteach (and a few others),” it’s fairly safe to say you know what you’re going to get when you taste their 12yo, 18yo,  25yo.  Big sherried whiskies.

What’s more is, like when bands have their music remastered, in 2011 Bunnahabhain “remastered” their standard range.  Moving their ABV from 40%/43% up to 46.3%, discontinuing the use of E150a caramel coloring and the ending the practice of chill-filtration has seemed to do wonders to the their standard range, breathing in new life and vibrancy.

So, rock on Bunnahabhain!  Stand in the place where you live.  Don’t Lose Your Religion, just distill while playing your Finest Worksong.

A new one for the US market – A peated Bunnahabhain by the moniker of “Toiteach”

Islay region – 46% ABV – $75-$80 |  £50

Today, along with the next few days as I catch up with my whisky reviews, I’m going to have to keep some of the preamble short and try to get right to the whisky review.

A few weeks back I got an email from Jeff K with Burns Stewart asking if I’d be interested in reviewing a new Bunnahabhain to the US market – a peated ex-bourbon Bunny.  Quite a stretch from their more standard, sherried, lightly (if at all) peated whisky.

My response to Jeff?  “Yes,” and “Thank you!”

So Jeff, thanks for the official sample!

This whisky is set to be launched in the US on April 1st (or there abouts).  No, this is not an April Fools Joke.

One more thing before I get to the review – I have to say kudos to Bunnahabhain, once again, for releasing their whiskies now at 46%+ ABV and non-chill filtered!  I hope other major distilleries follow you (yes, I’m looking at you GlenWhisky!!)

On the nose –  Wow, not what you’d expect from a Bunnahabhain – Pungent, briny, high tide, seaweed.

Good bits of toffee and floating about is a touch of lavender.

Sand buckets filled with wet sand from your trip to the beach with the kids last week.

Cigarette tray from a ’70’s Chevy Nova (with hints of Naugahyde in the background).

On the mouth – Welcome to the industrial age.  Jackhammer smoke and contraction sites.

Fantastic mouthfeel, quite oily.

Bursts of Dragonfruit slide down the back of the tongue.  Pears and apples quite browned but minus and and all brown spices – just the baked fruit.

Strip all I said away, bring it down to brass tacks and this is a solid, solid peat monster – and a bit peppery one at that!

Finish – Sweet and smoky with a fair amount of laminated cardboard candy boxes.  Medium length to the finish.

In sum – This 14yo whisky is one kick ass peat monster.  To be used as a really enjoyable way to warm the bones.  Good one, you little Bunnies!  Very nice to see that Islay’s more gentle whisky can hang with the other Islay peat monsters with head held high!