Bunnahabhain – Peated 8 Year Old – Gordon & MacPhail – Single Malt Scotch Whisky | 43% (86 Proof)
Introduction: This whisky is one of four samples sent to me by the fine folks at Gordon & MacPhail to showcase their “The Wood Makes the Whisky” collection. I could not agree more with that sentiment. I also believe that most of what we enjoy from our whisky comes from the spirits interaction with the barrel. This process is aided by a skilled blender who can match the spirit to the correct cask. They then monitor it throughout its maturation to pull it for bottling at just the right time. It may seem like magic what happens inside those dark barrels, but the results are all but certain when you have spent generations putting as much thought into the process as Gordon & MacPhail have. In addition to the samples a great little book was included as well as a very comfortable pencil. Overall a wonderful surprise package to receive. Let’s dive into the first of four reviews.
Color/Appearance: Pale yellow with only a hint of warmth. Nice and natural looking for an eight year old. This young Islay malt is from a re-fill sherry butt and comes from a run of peated whisky from Bunnahabhain. Normally they do not peat their barley, but occasionally we get treats like this. Could be from 1997, a year where they experimented by peating most of their malt to 38 ppm. Just a bit of speculation on my part, not sure when this was distilled. Okay time to open this stuff up.
Nose: Oh, sweet peat, how I have missed you. Salty rocks by the sea and a distant beach campfire. A gentle nose with green grass, pears, ropes, and candied lemon peel. Really gives you a sense of place. Great nose.
Palate: Gentle ash, licorice, seaweed, lime, seashells (not that I have tasted them, but hey I can write whatever I feel), tart apple, liquor infused pineapple. Austere and simple. Only a hint of the sherry cask influence. I imagine that a full bottle of this would open up more over time exposing that which is only hinted at here. There is a lush core containing a warm fruit tart that is struggling to exert itself.
Overall: I find this whisky does make me think a lot about the marriage of spirit and cask. The softly peated Bunnahabhain and less active re-fill sherry butt combine to make a gentle whisky. Normally they use very active sherry butts and do not peat their spirit. This bottle shows a very different side and illustrates how the Bunnahabhain profile is really one of blending. This eight year old is expressive and reserved. It really begs you to spend some time and doesn’t present its charms easily. That is its blessing as well as its curse. It may not have a wide appeal as insane peat freaks will not find it peaty enough and fans of Bunnahabhain’s heavily sherried house style may be confused. I still found it to be a great whisky to explore, and one that brings me quickly back to appreciating the charms of that magical island called Islay. I can’t wait to explore the three remaining drams from “The Wood Makes The Whisky” collection. A strange thing about this dram is that it is my first official Bunnahabhain review. Now I can say that I have reviewed at least one whisky from each of Islay’s eight working distilleries. Well, as long as we can count Port Charlotte as being from Bruichladdich, which I do. Also thanks to Curt from All Things Whisky, I now have the raw materials necessary to review a Port Ellen to further my Islay coverage. It has taken longer than I originally thought but I am in no rush, as the journey is the destination. Thanks to Gordon & MacPhail for the wonderful package and to you for reading.