...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Bea's Birthday Booze: Ben Nevis 25 year old 1984, cask 98/35/13

My previous Ben Nevis review posted to this site 361 days ago. In honor of my daughter Beatrice's fifth birthday, I reviewed a 25 year old official Ben Nevis single cask (98/35/1) that was distilled in 1984.

Today, in honor of Beatrice's sixth birthday, I am reviewing a 25 year old official Ben Nevis single cask (98/35/13) that was distilled in 1984.

There were at least six single casks from this parcel, each receiving the same re-racking treatment. Distilled in December 1984, the spirit was deposited into bourbon casks, in which it baked until October 1998 when the whisky was then poured ("vatted" per the labels) into sherry casks, where it continued to mature until bottling time.

With 13+ years in bourbon casks and 11+ years in sherry casks, 98/35/1 and 98/35/13 had true double maturations. 98/35/1 was cask-heavy, but never tannic. I hope for something similar or better from 98/35/13. The whiskybase community certainly adores this cask.

Damn good photo if I do say so my damn self

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: 25 years old (December 1984 - May 2010)
Maturation: Bourbon: Dec 1984 - October 1998; then Sherry: October 1998 - May 2010
Cask #: 98/35/13
Outturn: 638 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.4%
(from a bottle split)


Yeah, the nose is probably 90% cask, but it's very nice. Dried cherries in very dark chocolate. Dried mango and a few figs. Maple and grape jam. In the background: a dunnage by the ocean. The palate is warm and toasty, with plenty of oak spice up front. Raspberries, oranges, walnuts, dark grapes, and honey fill the midground......then a burst of xocolatl, Mexican chocolate, takes over, full of cinnamon and chiles. That big note remains through the long finish, with limes and grapes in the background.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose begins with raisins, toffee, milkier chocolate, and a hint of dunnage. As the water integrates, out come nectarines, orange blossoms, and some Jamaican rum-style dunder. The cask gets heavier in the palate. All oak spices and Mexican chocolate until it suddenly changes. And there it is: strange organic peat mouldering in a damp basement. Yes! It finishes tangy, full of chiles, lightly smoky, and with a few nectarines tossed in.


Twice the palate shifts colors, dramatically. With the Ben Nevis diluted to 46%abv, its wonderful eccentricity materializes out of nowhere, like a koan instantly manifesting a truth long hidden. When the whisky is at its full strength, the raucous Mexican chocolate spontaneously blasts through everything around it. Like the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeah.

This is the better cask. I have nothing else to add.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - !!!!
Rating - 90

Friday, September 29, 2023

Concluding 2023's Bunnahabhain Cluster

(Bunnahabhain cluster 2023 homepage)

If one just scrolls down to the see the rating for these 13 Bunnahabhains, that person may go, "Meh. Another set of 81-90 point whiskies."

And a defense of that could be, "Yeah, Bunnahabhain can be boringly great. Is that a crime?" But really, I struggle using one number to summarize a whisky's experience. Many of these Bunnas were a wild ride as I searched to find their honey spot. Did they need water or time, or neither? So perhaps a better way to demonstrate my three weeks is by using a letter-grade range, taking into consideration each one's peaks and valleys:

So this cluster really swung between C grade and A- grade experiences. This is why I've been qualifying my grades more frequently recently, to help pinpoint strengths.

Some of these whiskies were oak dominant, like the 28yo 1988 and the 10yo 2009 (quite the age range), while others, like the 23yo 1991 were nearly nude. There was a monster and a pipsqueak. And then there were the Goldilocks whiskies, the current 12yo and the 33yo 1980, that were juuuuuuust right.

Perhaps that's the tale of many single malts, but these Bunnahabhains had no peat to hide behind. Yes, when Laphroaig and Lagavulin get it right, they are divine. But Bunnahabhain can shine as bright or brighter when all the chemistry works. And that's sort of the point of our whisky quests isn't it? To discover works for our palates and what doesn't?

So is a 81-90 point single malt "boring"? Or is it "reliable"? I'll go with the latter, knowing I came out of this cluster a bigger Bunnahabhain fan than before.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Things I Really Drink: Bunnahabhain 33 year old 1980 Whisky Doris, cask 92

(Bunnahabhain cluster 2023 homepage)

If you're thinking, "Didn't he already review this whisky?" The answer is, yes! I had the pleasure of opening a bottle for a whisky event, EIGHT years ago, and promptly fell in love with it. In my review, this site's 450th, I concluded with, "...it just became my birthday gift to myself." And eight years later, I opened it for a birthday, my 45th.

I can count on one hand the amount of times I've been able to try a 30+ year old whisky, then turn around buy it, and this was one of the last times (yes, eight years ago). In 2015, this bottle went for ⅕ - ⅒ the price of a 33yo single sherry cask single malt today. Let that soak in a little bit.

This monochrome old-style label, tho:

One-third of the bottle's contents have now been processed by human livers, and I'm wrapping up a Bunnahabhain cluster, so it's the best time to review bottle #211 from this 33.5 year old sherry butt.


The highlight of this entire cluster, this whisky's nose elicits an audible reaction every time. Walnuts and orange peels. Fresh apricots and yellow plums (mirabelles if we're being fancy). Balsamic vinegar, pears, and mizunara-like sandalwood. Dunnage and honey. Hints of cinnamon, almond extract, and roses in the background.

The palate starts with a surprising herbal bite of fresh sage, oregano, and wormwood, followed by black walnuts, grapefruit, and honey. Clementines and tinned peaches bob up to the surface after 45 minutes. There is a woodiness, but it arrives delicately, giving way to the herbs and fruit.

It finishes with more complex citrus notes (tangy, tart, and sweet) that last the longest. Some of the herbs, especially sage, remain, along with the honey and a bright fresh ginger zing.


I'm plucking out the cork again, and a bolder dunnage note jumps out first from the bottled Bunna. An almost existential feeling swells in my chest. Yes, that sounds very dramatic. But I'm reminded that I'm past the midpoint of fully functional senses in this life. So I should enjoy the hedonism while I can, and OPEN ALL THE WHISKIES RIGHT NOW. Or maybe just enjoy the moment. I'll figure this out someday. Or not.

While the palate doesn't leave me contemplating the life outstanding, it still makes me go, "Yeah, that's really nice." The finish: "More, please." Were it not so damned late, I'd pour another glass. So, as always, I encourage you to make time for what you've got, share your good stuff, and go hunt down some old Bunnahabhain.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - it was a buck-fitty in 2015
Rating - 90

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Bunnahabhain 30 year old 1987 Wemyss, cask 2675 for Taiwan

(Bunnahabhain cluster 2023 homepage)

Indie bottler, Wemyss, had a wacky set of 1987 Bunnahabhain casks in their warehouses. At least four of them were below 45%abv when dumped, while three were over 62%abv at age 30. I got my greasy mitts on a sample of the brute of the bunch, a single cask that did not have one of Wemyss's perky names, but rather one that was given a pretty label and sent to Taiwan. It's also the darkest whisky I've tried in a very long time.

Over the three decades the cask lost ~35% of its content, but almost no alcohol. (Even the angels need to stay hydrated.) What does this mean though? Will this one batter my face with tannins like yesterday's '88???

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Wemyss
Age: allllllmost 31 years (30 Nov 1987 - 15 Nov 2018)
Maturation: "Fresh Sherry Butt"
Cask #: 2675
Outturn: 466 bottles
Exclusive to: Taiwan
Alcohol by Volume: 62.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a bottle split)


INTENSE. Bold notes of ocean water and moss survive in the nose, combining well with dark chocolate, eucalyptus, salted roasted almonds, and dried currants. It even has subtle notes of lychee and boot polish in the background. The palate, easily drinkable at this strength, leads with figs, Palo Cortado, and sea salt. Bits of umami and leather here and there. Some peaches and dried blueberries too. This finish lasts for nearly an hour: umami, charred peppers, salt, peaches, and a splash of PX sweetness.

Just a little bit of water...

DILUTED to ~57%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Very pretty nose. Fresh basil, fresh apricots, anise, and roses in the foreground, dark chocolate and dates in the background. It's a blunter weapon on the palate, hotter. more peppery, and sweeter. Feels like a PX cask here. It finishes similar to the palate with an extra does of fresh ginger.


Keep this gorgeous beast neat! Yum. It has my dried fruits, fresh fruits, flowers, chocolates, savoriness, saltiness, and mossiness. And may I remind you, figs and dates. Meanwhile, the Bunnahabhain character survived all that time and evaporation.

Yes, I tried it alongside yesterday's 28yo, and this monster won in a first round KO. And I thought this 30yo was going to be the unmanageable one. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I'm happy to be wrong.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90 (NEAT)

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Bunnahabhain 28 year old 1988 Alexander Murray & Co.

Alexander Murray & Co.'s whiskies first appeared as 40%abv tragedies in Trader Joe's and Costco stores. Gradually they started materializing in specialty liquor retailers (Hi-Time, K&L, etc.). Then, almost as soon as I moved to Ohio, Murray & Co started plopping cask strength (CS) bottlings onto shelves. Since the pair of CS so-so whiskies I tried the two months before I moved in 2016, I've reviewed just one of their full-power items, a very good 20yo Ledaig.

Today I'm excited to try their 28yo Bunna, bottled a year after I departed CA. The bottler's website does provide a little bit of cask info this time (huzzah!), so I'm actually able to provide a little bit of data below.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Alexander Murray & Company
Age: minimum 28 years (distilled 1988)
Maturation: multiple first-fill sherry Butts and one first-fill hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 53.2%
Chillfiltered? ???
Colorant added? ???
(from a bottle split)


It noses more like American whiskey than Scotch whisky, like a mix of bourbon and rye. Wave after wave of barrel char and caramel and bananas ride up top, mint and pickle brine underneath. Milder notes of dried leaves, milk chocolate, dried apricots, orange oil, and florals appear occasionally. Astringent tannin levels block out the rest of the palate in early sips. Then vanilla, banana, and milk chocolate arrive. Tart cherries, tart raspberries, and tangy limes show up after 45 minutes. The finish arrives as follows: salted licorice, black pepper, vanilla, caramel, and tart cherries.

I'm adding water to this one.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose keeps the leaves, vanilla, mint, and caramel, jettisoning the rest, while gaining applesauce, cinnamon, and peanuts. Lower tannin levels and sweeter berries help out the palate, while notes of ginger, green bell pepper, marshmallows, and flowers mingle in the midground. It finishes sweeter and pepperier, with the caramel note remaining.


Alexander Murray & Company were wise to send this release to the US, as it caters to the bourbon-preferring palate. Alas, it doesn't work for my palate, so my opinion of this whisky will be in the Internet minority. While I do enjoy bourbon (and rye more-so!), I don't thrill to tongue-stripping tannic blasts, as dished out by 15+ year old American whiskies. And while vanilla and caramel are delicious in actual desserts, getting those notes out of a cask is neither particularly difficult (I did it with all of my own hideous cask experiments) nor interesting. Dilution does improve this Bunna, dialing down the extreme American oak aggression, and offering a quirkier result.

I'm sure this was priced reasonably back in the day, so some of you may have an unopened bottle of it in The Stash. If so, please see the very positive reviews on Whiskybase and Reddit, and just ignore this one. And also add water.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 (diluted only)

Friday, September 22, 2023

Bunnahabhain 25 year old, 2015 bottling

Random note to start with: When trying this whisky, I had thought it was a 2011 bottling, as per a link that was sent to me, but when looking at the following bottle code pic...

...I discovered it was in fact the 2015 bottling. This may sound petty, but I was going into this thinking I was trying one of the first updated batches of the XXV, when in fact, I was trying one of the last XXVs.

Bunnahabhain 25 year old (known as XXV from 2005-2016) was chillfiltered and reduced to 43%abv until late 2010 when it was rebooted along with the rest of the range, receiving the 46.3%/nc/ncf presentation. I had never tried any version of the official 25 before last night, so this was a new thing!

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Bottled by: Distell International Limited (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay

Age: minimum 25 years
Maturation: mostly sherry casks?
Bottled: 2015
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


It's an old spirit indeed on the nose. Coffee, old newspapers, old calvados, and a hint of shisha. Peach skins, cherry juice, maple, and nocino. The tobacco note expands with time as the whisky also picks up a watermelon Jolly Rancher note.

The palate begins with something like old armagnac + black walnuts. Or maybe a 25 year old nocino? Orange candy, grapefruit, and raw almonds fill the midground. It takes on notes of bitter coffee, PX, and touch of bitter oak after 45 minutes.

The oak hits harder in the finish, bitter and sweet. Jammy PX, black coffee, and a touch of tangy citrus give it some angles.


Though the whisky spent plenty of years in casks — a portion of which may have been older than 25 — time in the glass doesn't do it any favors. It's quite lovely at the 20 minute mark, but after 45 minutes it starts turning into an oak gremlin. The nose remains excellent throughout, but old oak stuff usually smells great. The combination of old armagnac, black walnuts, and grapefruit made this drinker's palate very happy while it lasted. It's actually very good whisky at times, and I'm being hyper-critical here, but the average price of Bunnahabhain 25yo is now $750 in the US, so I don't feel too bad about my commentary.

Availability - Current versions are widely available
Pricing - Current editions are $600-$1000 in the USA, $300-$550 in Europe (ex-VAT)
Rating - 87 (but drops into the 70s after 45 minutes)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Bunnahabhain 23 year old 1991 Whisky-Fässle

Now that I'm done with the younglings, the Bunnahabhain cluster will time travel back to the '90s and '80s, which is probably the best scenario because if I'm going to deliver irrelevant reviews, I'd better make the whiskies inconsequential and old.

Today's Bunnahahbain was bottled by the reliable Whisky-Fässle, a German indie that likes to put duck heinies on their labels. For instance, from today's bottling:

Hey, no judgement here. Everyone's got a kink.

Almost as important as the duck's tushie is the fact that this Bunnahabhain was unbothered by sherry casks. It's a single hogshead, and the whisky's color is quite light. And I am quite looking forward to this.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Ownership: Distell International Limited (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Whisky-Fässle
Range: Ducks?
Age: 23 years (1991 - 2015)
Maturation: hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 47.5%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(Thank you, My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)


Ooooh, guavas and roses and apple cider start the nose off. It has a beer-like cereal note in the middle, with hints of kiwi juice, mint leaf, smoke, and dunnage mustiness floating through the background. The palate goes BIG on the bitter herbs, salt, and dried leaves. A zippy tartness arrives next, followed by soil and smoky spent synthetic oil. It finishes with tart pineapples, dried leaves, and a bit of that good bitterness.

The ABV is already low, so I'll go easy on the water.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or >½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose tilts towards apples, pears, and green grapes. More on dandelions than roses. A brisk mix of dried herbs and ultra tart citrus fill the palate, with lighter notes of oat bran and toffee following. The finish still has that lively bitterness with subtler tart and sweet notes offering some balance.


Duck butts > Sherry butts?

This whisky's palate is of a style that's almost outlawed today. Maybe five distilleries can still nail this industrial-yet-fruity character on their best days. That this hogshead seemed to do little, aside from hold the whisky, only improves matters. I'd be happy to consume this Bunna with or without water, but I'm leaning towards the neat delivery right now. Because the ABV was already quite low, I don't know if this cask would have been better at 18 years or 28 years, but I think it was dumped at the right time.

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (same score given by Mr. Opinions and Mr. Fun)