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My last review was of a Wilson & Morgan Glen Scotia bottling, and I found two more W&M samples in my cabinet - damn, I should have written these as a series! Oh well. By the way, I owe a shout-out of thanks to Igor Kossov for all three of the W&M samples.
Speaking of Igor - he and I, with our friend Jeff McCarthy, went to Islay in May and had the great pleasure of visiting Bunnahabhain, near Port Askaig (and so also near Caol Ila, which we skipped). You haven't lived until you have seen the giant waves crashing on the rocks just below the visitor centre, feeling the salty spray on your face and the wind gusting through your hair (there is a pier and a dock right there - so you can access the distillery by boat!) They are not gussied up as a tourist attraction; all the better to enjoy its charm and simplicity.
As you may know, Bunnahabhain is the only Islay distillery with no peated whiskies in their core range (Bruichladdich has some non-peated whiskies, of course - but do they even have a core range?) It was founded in 1881 and deliberately went against the grain (ha) with unpeated or lightly peated malt. Since the peated Islays could only sell so much to blenders without resulting in an imbalanced blend, Bunnahabhain sought to offer an alternative - hence it was turning a profit by its second year. When it was owned by The Edrington Group, it was third fiddle to Macallan and Highland Park. Now that it is owned by Burn Stewart, it seems to be becoming more recognized.
The spirit in this bottle was distilled in 2001 and matured for 12 years in fresh oloroso butts. It was bottled this year.
The colour is a very bright gold. The nose is very interesting and quite unusual: honey mustard, dill, candy floss, and a light ribbon of caramel weaving through. Both sweet and herbal. The sherry influence seems to grow the more time spent in the glass. Unfortunately, water seems to close it down.
Quite sweet on the palate, with spices balancing it out: cayenne, salt and pepper, with Mackintosh toffee and vanilla. Cocoa and a hint of almond. An almost syrupy mouthfeel. Water ups the spices.
The finish is surprisingly deep, but medium length - salty and a very final burst of nutmeg right at the death. It is nicely balanced, and very easy to drink! A tiny bit on the sweet side for me, but this is still a fine example of the distillery character.