...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Welcome to the 2023 Bunnahabhain Cluster!

Unpeated Bunnahabhain is one of my favorite autumn malts, so as I slowly dehydrate in this 92ºF (33ºC) heat I shall try to summon cooler weather with a Bunna cluster. At the very least, the series will end on the last day of September, so this might actually work.

Bunnahabhain distillery's construction began in 1881, ending just before distillation began in 1883. Original owners Islay Distillers (Robertson & Baxter and the Greenlees Brothers) merged with William Grant & Company in 1887 to form Highland Distillers. The distillery kept its single set of stills until 1963-1964 when Bunnahabhain underwent a complete makeover. A second set of stills was added, the floor maltings removed, and a new Porteus mill installed. It was around this time that the distillery focused on creating a light style of malt for its blend destinations: Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, Black Bottle, and Scottish Leader.

The whisky industry downturn that led to the closing of Port Ellen (and many other distilleries), also pushed Highland Distillers to close Bunnahabhain in 1982. Bunna was reopened two years later but its production was kept low for nearly two decades. Highland Distillers (now Edrington) sold the distillery to Burn Stewart Distillers in 2003, which in turn was bought by Distell International Limited in 2013. Under Burn Stewart's stewardship, production was expanded, single malt bottlings increased, and heavily-peated spirit distillations began, the latter of which seem to increase every year, now making up 35% of the annual runs.

I've always enjoyed Bunnahabhain 12 year old in its 46.3%abv form. It's one of the unsung, consistently high quality single malts, not just from Islay, but Scotland as a whole. It's always been my next-step recommendation malt, as in, "If you like Macallan 12, then you should try Bunnahabhain 12 next." Earlier this year, Columbus Scotch Night opened a current bottle of the 12yo (now sold in Ohio!), and I am happy to say that the state of Bunnahabhain 12 year old is strong.

So how about a baker's dozen Bunnies this month?!

pic source


1. Bunnahabhain 12 year old, dumpy bottle (1990s bottling) - "...one step up from a blend......but it's begging for the......46.3%/nc/ncf presentation to wake things up a bit."
2. Bunnahabhain 12 year old (bottled 2018) - "This might be my favorite 10-12 year old standard Islay right now..."
5. Bunnahabhain Abhainn Araig, for Feis Ile 2022 - "...reads more like a Travel Retail NAS release than a celebratory limited bottling.
6. Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2023, Canasta Cask Matured - "It has figs and dates, so who am I to complain? Diving for Pearls, that's who!"
7. Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2009 Adelphi, cask 900022 - "...play with dilution to find the honey spot."
8. Bunnahabhain 15 year old 2003 Amontillado Finish - "...a full step better than......the 10yo Adelphi. I'd even argue that the sherry casks in the 15yo are better integrated than the 10yo..."
9. Bunnahabhain 23 year old 1991 Whisky-Fässle - "Duck butts > Sherry butts?"
10. Bunnahabhain 25 year old (2015 bottling) - "The combination of old armagnac, black walnuts, and grapefruit made this drinker's palate very happy while it lasted."
11. Bunnahabhain 28 year old 1988 Alexander Murray & Co. - "...it caters to the bourbon-preferring palate. Alas, it doesn't work for my palate..."
12. Bunnahabhain 30 year old 1987 Wemyss, cask 2675 for Taiwan - "Keep this gorgeous beast neat! It has my dried fruits, fresh fruits, flowers, chocolates, savoriness, saltiness, and mossiness."
13. Bunnahabhain 33 year old 1980 Whisky Doris, cask 92 - "The highlight of this entire cluster, this whisky's nose elicits an audible reaction every time..."