Nestled in Jura Sound right down on the waters edge sits the most Northerly Distillery on Islay, Bunnahabhain. Established in 1881, this distillery built its reputation supplying the fishermen and traders making their way through the Hebrides in the cold North Sea. Bunnahabhain has made its mark, not as a peat monster, smack in the mouth, blow your socks off Islay malt. Instead – as a consistent performer – always high quality, subtle yet complex, full flavoured without being ostentatious, making it the ideal back bone of Scotlands favourite blended whisky, Black Bottle. This month – the Bunnahabhain 12 year old.
The Bunnahabhain 12 year old certainly delivers on its reputation with full flavours of the bourbon and sherry oak used in the ageing process delivering a clean, creamy, nutty flavoured malt with just a touch of peat smokiness to satisfy the peat lovers, yet not so much to put off those that prefer their whiskies clean.
It is a lovely aromatic whisky, with dried fruit characters, such as raisin and almond nuances reminiscent of freshly baked friand.
The Bunnahabhain 12 year old really is unique. It’s mouthfeel is similar to spring water (Evian, not Mount Franklin) which is derived from the water used in the dilution coming from Margadale River, rather than distilled water as is the case for the vast majority of distilleries in modern times. They may well use a spring or river water as process water for cooling, but very few actually add this water to the spirit anymore.
Another unique feature is that as the distillery is the Northern most distillery, and the cask rooms are built right on the beach front, when the winter storms come from the North Sea, waves crash right over the top of the cask rooms, filling the angels share with seaspray, giving this whisky a saline, brackish flavour which extenuates the natural butterscotch flavours.
It should be noted that Bunnahabhain has recently been souped up. This offering is the traditional version upon which Bunnahabhain has built its reputation.