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Friday, September 15, 2023

Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2023, Canasta Cask Matured

Bunnahabhain abandoned Gaelic naming for this year's Fèis Ìle release, centering the festival and the whisky's cask on the bottle's label. While the 2022 release, reviewed on Wednesday, was a mildly interesting but very young combo of oloroso casks, bourbon casks, and PX octaves, this 2023 whisky was fully matured in Canasta sherry casks. "Canasta" sounds extra fancy, but it's really just an oloroso (75%) sweetened with Pedro Ximenez (25%), and the bestselling sherry of its kind in Spain (per Ruben). I do appreciate that the whisky is not a quick secondary maturation, but a full maturation in a single cask type. How long that maturation is, we may never know. My bet is a single-digit age.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Ownership: Distell International Limited (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay

Age: ???
Maturation: Canasta cream sherry casks
Bottled: 2023
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a paid event)


The nose starts out simply with lots of florals and a hint of walnuts. But it get plummier with time, also taking on apple cider, raw almonds, and cotton candy. It hits the palate sort of fizzy, like a fig soda (which needs to be a thing). A zippy pepperiness keeps the sweetness in check, as do some tart blueberries. Maybe it's just the whisky's youth talking, but it reads a little peaty. It finishes with the figs and peppercorns, and just a touch of dates.

DILUTED to 46.3%abv, or 3.2mL of water per 30mL whisky

Different nose now. Yeast, brown sugar, and maple float up front, dates and plums in the background. The palate grows much woodier (tree bark and sharp tannins) and develops a honeyed sweetness. Just a little bit of lemon brightens up the background. It finishes sweet and tannic too, with ash lingering.


While the 2022 was much better when diluted, the Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2023 shone brighter when served neatly. (Sort of reminiscent of the 2021 12yo CS versus the 2022 12yo CS.) It has figs and dates, so who am I to complain? Diving for Pearls, that's who! The palate is limited, the finish short, and diluted version collapses much too quickly. But I still liked it more than the 2022 because of the figs and dates and the pretty nose. Again it doesn't match the standard 12 year old, but the ex-VAT price was under $90 when Columbus Scotch Night grabbed a bottle, which is now a reasonable figure during this whisky era.

Availability - Still available in Europe
Pricing - less than $100
Rating - 84 (neat only)