Bunnahabhain, originally founded in 1881, has, like many distilleries, had a rocky history. Built at a heady time for the Scotch industry, it is simply massive. The huge size helped it supply Highland Distillers (the precursor to Edrington) with copious amounts of smoky malt for blends like Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark. The 60s saw a doubling of the stills and the removal of the floor maltings, but eventually the 1980s took their toll and the remote distillery was mothballed in favor of easier to operate venues. While the closure was short, the distillery wasn’t really returned to its former glory until recent times. Now under the stewardship of Distell and with massive upgrades underway, Bunnahabhain, while still hard to pronounce, has become a household name (at least in those households that drink single malt). The enormous still provide ample copper contact giving a lighter profile to the spirit, but in a return the classic style of the 19th and ealry 20th centuries, this cask from Signatory is a first fill sherry butt of the highest order.
Andrew Whiteley | K&L Spirits Buyer | Review Date: October 27, 2022
The color of this 10-year is outrageous. It’s dark like molasses in the bottle and pours looking like XO Cognac from a big house. The nose is sherry-forward and loaded with toasted nuts, orange peel, and raisined fruits. If you diligently examine the aroma, you’ll find a plethora of malty goodness underneath. Sweet grain tea, chocolate malt balls, and the salty influence of the sea. On the palate, stewed fruits and a mushroomy umami note arise from the complicated interaction of spirit and cask. In a short 10 years, this has become a bomb of flavor from an epic distillery in an equally epic sherry butt. The finish highlights citrus, chocolate, and salted caramels and lingers for a long time. At 65.4% ABV, it’s no wonder it’s a powerful Scotch. With a touch of water, fruit tumbles forth bouncing between fresh and rancio notes. It’s a delightful cask with tons to offer. If you like a sherry bomb, you’ll be happy with this with no effort required. If you want a complex malt with a big sherry profile, but one that isn’t a one trick pony, this will reward the patient drinker willing to sit with a dram for an extended period of time.
David Othenin-Girard | K&L Spirits Buyer | Review Date: October 21, 2022
Lots of B distilleries coming from Signatory this year. I think the B distilleries rival the C distilleries in terms of the finest set of Scotch distilleries associated by an arbitrary factor like the first letter in the name. Nonetheless, we do very well with the B distilleries and a big part of that is Bunnahabhain! Somewhat like Bowmore, which offer some interesting if not always very exciting distillery releases, it is the independently bottled stock from Bunnahabhain to which we can attribute its stellar reputation. Although the quality contrast between distillery releases and IB bottlings is not as stark as its Islay neighbor, there seems to be a lot of really good Bunnah that makes it out of the clutches of corporate ownership. That’s likely due to the multiple owners this old distillery has had over the years, but as we see younger stocks in high-quality barrels come through, it becomes clear that the current owners aren’t opposed to divesting high-quality stocks to the right partners. The worry with such an active sherry butt and the sometimes more subtle spirit of the famously unpeated Islay, is that its character gets lost behind the bold sherry flavors. We’re very grateful to not have that problem with this stupendous cask. That’s not to say that it’s not absolutely packed to the brim with intense sherry goodness. The color is a deep, brown sherry. The dark nutty aromas of oloroso are tempered by the robust savory character of the malt, adding salty umami and an almost sweet, oceanic character. Less like the sea itself and more like the windswept sands and rocky beaches of Islay, with the salty churning currents of the straights of Islay bubbling in the distance. Rich roasted espresso beans, black berry jam, cedar, sweet tobacco leaf, dried mango, salt- and caramel-covered nougat candies. Rich and surprisingly drinkable at the extremely high proof, offering tins of molasses cookies and dark fruit compote, with a dark herbal quality. With water we have more vibrant plum and stewed peach. This thing absolutely loves water. Super complex now, with lots of dark chocolate and salted caramel. On the palate, it sweetens considerably, adding fruit and a caramel finish to the tanned hide and the old, antique wood. I just can’t believe this thing is only ten years old. So much going on here, this bottle will keep giving and giving for ages.
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