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Bunnahabhain Darach Ur Batch 1

Fresh and vibrant

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@Pierre_WReview by @Pierre_W

3rd Jan 2016


Bunnahabhain Darach Ur Batch 1
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Darach Ùr means ‘fresh oak’ in Gaelic and was launched in 2008 as an exclusive travel retail expression. It was matured in new American oak casks from a family-run cooperage in Bardstown/Kentucky.

The nose is rich and lush with plenty of vanilla, cinnamon and crème brûlée flavours. Then there is a good dose of wood spice but not aggressive and very well integrated.

The palate is medium-bodied, fresh and vibrant. The vanilla flavours are back, now together with notes of caramel, ginger and cereals. There is also a hint of fudge and some lemon notes.

The finish is of medium length and pleasantly warming. Vanilla and ginger flavours last until the very end.

This was an unusual Bunnahabhain in the sense that the virgin oak barrels have given it a freshness that I had not seen in other expressions. I very much enjoyed this vibrant and lush bottling of one of my favourite distilleries. Apparently this has now become somewhat rare, so why not grab a bottle if you see one.

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Victor commented

@Pierre_W, thanks for your very interesting review. So I guess that Darach Ur does not have an age statement. It would be very interesting to know the average age of the whiskies present.

New oak can easily overpower barley grain if the oak is charred to open up the veins in the wood. Jim Murray made a huge mistake in referring to the 19 yo Glenmorangie Ealanta as having been made in the way that bourbon is made. It was not. Bourbon always, by law, uses new CHARRED oak barrels. Ealanta used new TOASTED oak barrels. This makes far more sense with barley-malt whisky...and if Ealanta had been matured for 19 years in new CHARRED oak barrels you probably would not have been able to taste any barley in it...only flavours from new wood. Toasted oak aging allows much subtlety to develop and blocks most of the big flavours from the wood.

I would like to see more information from these distillers using new oak to make barley-malt whisky. Stranahan's in Colorado does a nice job with new charred oak, but they don't take the whiskey aging much beyond 3 to 5 years maximum. You can easily tell with Stranahan's that it wouldn't take too much to put it over the edge from the wood influence. Fortunately, they are well aware of that there.

I think that if I were making a Scottish malt and planned to try some new oak aging, that I would experiment a lot. I think that I'd maybe mix one part charred new oak with two parts toasted new oak. That way one could probably get away with aging the whisky 10 to 12 years in Scotland without the wood influence overpowering the barley.

8 years ago 0

Pierre_W commented

Dear @Victor, many thanks for your kind words, as always. You are correct in stating that Darach Ùr is a NAS single malt. As I mentioned, it has become quite rare and batch #1 is virtually unobtainable these days. I think that a maturation in new oak casks is quite unusual in Scotland and it certainly worked well in the case of Darach Ùr, but things could get quickly wrong - as you quite correctly mention - were the flavours from the new oak barrel to overtake all the whisky's barley flavours. Many thanks again for your very insightful comments!

8 years ago 0

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