New Whiskies

Batch 173

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Six Bunnahabhains: Palo Cortado finish, Mòine 2008 Bordeaux Cask, Pastoral cask from Scyfion Choice, Bn7 from Elements of Islay, 27 years old Marriage of Casks from Elixir Distillers, 2008 Octave from Duncan Taylor

It’s a veritable Bunnahabhain bonanza this week, as Dave Broom samples six different bottlings from the Islay distillery. The soundtrack is suitably swampy, all in tribute to the late, great Tony Joe White.

First up is Bn7, a bottling from Elixir Distillers’ Elements of Islay range, and Broom finds sweetshop flavours with boisterous funk underneath. ‘Highly recommended,’ he concludes.

Next up is a bottling from Bunnahabhain proper, a 1997 expression finished in palo cortado Sherry casks. Mature and savoury, it’s a lightly bitter, nutty malt that winds up another high scorer.

Moving on to a 2008 Bunna’ from Duncan Taylor’s Octave range, Broom finds more nuttiness that moves into ‘oven-warm chocolate muffins’. It’s got ‘an immediacy of style’ characteristic of the Octave range, but doesn’t quite hit the heights of some of the others this week.

Another Elixir Distillers offering, a 27-year-old from the Single Malts of Scotland range, smacks of lemon and ginger before Broom finds a whisky ‘stripped back to its core’. The end result? Broom rates this Bunna’ the best of the bunch.

The Bunnahabhain Mòine 2008 Bordeaux Cask is ‘a lovely mix of nut and spice’. Bunna’s peated malt gives off a mossy smoke on the nose and a prickly finish – the whole effect reminds Broom of mysterious voodoo magic.

Finally, the Pastoral Cask from bottler Syfion Choice is all stewing plums and squishy berries. It’s overwhelmed by the Cahors red wine finish, leaving too little distillery character for Broom’s palate.

Today’s playlist is all from Tony Joe White, the long-standing ‘swampy’ southern rocker who passed away this week. Crack open a Bunna’ and be transported courtesy of White’s Funky Fingers on the guitar.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bn7, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers)

    Bn7, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    This is slightly surprising on first approach as it’s like walking into an old-fashioned sweet shop – strawberry chews, rhubarb and custards, and bubblegum. Go back after a minute and things have become significantly richer and funkier as the Sherry casks come into their own, adding Jamaica ginger cake, raisin, fur coats and leather oil. The addition of water brings out more earthy elements, leaf litter, sweet chestnut and old books. There’s a hefty elegance at work here. In time there’s apple and another hint of those confectionery elements.

    Palate

    Copes with the alcohol well although things are very spicy, adding a gingery bite to rich dried fruit. Boisterous, robust and funky with supple tannins. Things remain on the deeper side when diluted, though the water seems to liberate a range of top notes, adding complexity and bringing back those strawberries.

    Finish

    Bitter coffee and (not for the only time this week) chocolate.

    Conclusion

    Bn7 either means Bunnahabhain, benzyl or that this comes from Lewes. I suspect the first. Whatever, it’s highly recommended. As is Lewes, come to think of it. 

    Right place, right time

    Funky Fingers start to play.

    Bunnahabhain 20 Years Old, 1997, Palo Cortado Cask

    Bunnahabhain 20 Years Old, 1997, Palo Cortado Cask
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rich, with a pleasingly oxidised quality as well as stewing citrus peels, red fruits, then soft caramel toffee. It’s mature and cask-influenced but has also retained freshness, all of which adds to its overall complexity. When water is added there’s some fresh fig, more dried fruit and a hint of nut, but the fragrant element is retained. There’s even some sherbet lemon.

    Palate

    Slightly off-dry element (which is very palo cortado) with more apparent structure than on the nose. Things steadily progress towards walnut whip, espresso and those almost savoury oxidised notes. The mid-palate is all peppered cashew and a hint of caraway. Be careful with the water. A drop stirs in more grip and some cacao.

    Finish

    That lightly bitter Bunna’ bite.

    Conclusion

    Two years in palo cortado have added a subtle savoury element. Recommended.

    Right place, right time

    That bite, just like you stood on a water mossacin [sic], according to Roosevelt & Ira Lee.

    Bunnahabhain 9 Years Old, 2008, The Octave, Cask #3820134 (Duncan Taylor)

    Bunnahabhain 9 Years Old, 2008, The Octave, Cask #3820134 (Duncan Taylor)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    52.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    There’s some nose prickle alongside malted milk and sourdough bread with raisins. Robust with some nuttiness, in time moving to moist fruit cake and oven-warm chocolate muffins. As it develops you get pure fruit along with a vegetal element and hints of the perfume seen on the Bn7. There’s freshly-polished linoleum and overripe banana when water is added, along with dry bracken.

    Palate

    Generous and soft to start with only a light grip. Chocolate dominates the tongue, but there’s a hint of youth in the centre before you get a covering of creamy coffee, then ginger in syrup. When diluted, you’re greeted with two scoops of vanilla and rum-and-raisin ice cream.

    Finish

    Nuts, pepper, ginger, light clove. Softening.

    Conclusion

    Has good distillery character and the immediacy of style which makes the Octave series so approachable.

    Right place, right time

    A delicious bowl of Homemade Ice Cream.

    Bunnahabhain 27 Years Old, Single Malts of Scotland (Elixir Distillers)

    Bunnahabhain 27 Years Old, Single Malts of Scotland (Elixir Distillers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    48.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Refined and quite sweet. There’s an instant hit of lemon verbena and ginger juice which gives it the paradoxical effect of being simultaneously fresh, yet mature. The aromas progress into Calvados, then fresh quince. It has an almost diffident quality. Water shows how it wears its age lightly, and on its own terms. There’s some light oxidation without even dampening the brightness of the fruit, or its overall sophistication.

    Palate

    Quite light to start, with a lightly powdery quality things really get going in the middle and back palate, where there’s a bitter nut element balancing the acidity and vibrancy. The effect is of Bunna’ being stripped back to its core elements but with this added gloss of maturity. Subtle and refined.

    Finish

    Lightly ashy again.

    Conclusion

    A little fruit bomb and a refreshing alternative to the rest on show.

    Right place, right time

    A courtly southern gent thinking about his life on the Midnight Train.

    Bunnahabhain Mòine 10 Years Old, 2008, Bordeaux Cask

    Bunnahabhain Mòine 10 Years Old, 2008, Bordeaux Cask
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Integrated, quite turfy or mossy smoke with a background of deep, almost roasted cereal elements that is allied to wild hedgerow fruit, all balanced with camphor and watermint. Clean and crisp rather than flabby. Water adds in a mineral quality along with light citrus and balanced smoke.

    Palate

    A lovely mix of nut and spice to start before the billowing smoke is released. There’s light oak notes adding just a touch of cardamom and mace, but also some treacle tart and depth with that mineral back. Water brings out more of the fruit elements: cassis, tobacco, a whiff of cedar, then marmalade and slightly less smoke. Excellent balance.

    Finish

    Briny, with prickly spices and smoke.

    Conclusion

    Mòine has really hit its straps here.

    Right place, right time

    There might be some voodoo at work, but there ain’t no Hoodoo.

    Bunnahabhain 10 Years Old, 2007, Pastoral Cask (Scyfion Choice)

    Bunnahabhain 10 Years Old, 2007, Pastoral Cask (Scyfion Choice)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    46%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A deep reddish colour and a rewarding nose of stewing red plums, and cherry cola that steadily becomes more vinous along with some chewy, Assam tea-like maltiness before things switch back to fruit trifle and smooshed red fruits. Water stirs in blackberry and rose hip syrup.

    Palate

    A pretty sweet start. The spirit seems light and the two elements are eyeing each other up a little. It’s cask-driven (or rather, finish-driven), with an intriguing (and pleasant) bittersweet aspect, but things do fall away from the mid-palate onwards, as if the original cask hadn’t given enough of a foundation on which to build. Accordingly, the finish has taken charge. With water there’s a mix of red, squishy strawberries and blackcurrant.

    Finish

    Ripe fruits, some bite, and more cherry.

    Conclusion

    It’s been finished in a cask that’s previously held ‘Cahors’ (aka pastoral wine) made from Cabernet Sauvignon in Moldova’s Chateau Purcari. More about the finish than the Bunna’.

    Right place, right time

    Perfect if you have a Sweet Tooth.

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