Thursday, 21 April 2016

Ancient Bunnas

The inspiration from this flight came from Cadenhead’s recent 39 year old sherried Bunnahabhain, from the amazing 35 year old XOP the other week, and from the rest of the big guns sitting in bottle shares in my whisky collection.  The youngest whisky in this flight is 28!  Why are there so many ancient, indie Bunnahabhains out there?

Whisky Agency, Bunnahabhain 28 years old, 55% A⊕+

1987-2015, refill hogshead.

whiskyagencybunnaNose - Classically, instantly recognisable old Bunna; waxed window frames, red berries, jelly snakes and ice cream with wafers. Dark red wine, fruity hot toffee. Fruitier with water, with fresh mango and green apple next to pritt stick and freshly sanded, varnished pine.

Body - Dirty, spicy and lots of waxy wood. Wood oils and wine. Oil paints. Fruitier again with water, kiwi?

Finish - Very long, numbing with a balancing, but almost acrid bitterness. Don't get me wrong, this isn't out of place under the intensity of wax and wood oils. After about 4-5 minutes, sweet vanilla pastry remains, almost apologetically. Sawdust in the empty glass.

Played with all the stops out, this is big, oily and numbing - what a massive whisky. Tiring on the palate but the only way to live up to the nose.

Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, Bunnahabhain, 38 years old, 43% A⊕+'

1968-2006. Not the oldest whisky but the earliest distilled whisky in this ludicrously old lineup.

rareoldNose - So deeply sweet and dirty it's almost stilton. Hot amber and glacé cherries, bakewell tart and old school marker pens. Rich cake, candy cigarettes and there's an alien Islay thing without the peat. Epic.

Body - A masterclass in perfectly soft, fruity structured sulphur. Just beautiful, almost a red wine balance of tannins, fruit and structure. And an avalanche of oak. Softer but with sourer wood with water.

Finish - Long, very well poised. Very dry and tannic without being overbalanced, but there's almost touch too much wine? Tobacco with water. It's a beautiful thing.

The nose is intense - gravitas and even ruder than the 28. Distilled almost 20 years prior and held in cask 10 years longer, the delivery is still ridiculous but even better balanced. Glorious.

Cadenheads Small Batch, Bunnahabhain 39 years old, 49.4% A⊕+

1976, 3 sherry butts, 648 bottles. Just reviewed (like, 10 days ago!), but I have an open bottle so let's see how it stacks up to the previous bourbon casks.

image6Nose - Winier than the two before, and certainly more gentle. More poised, not the big 303s I’ve just had, rather it's chocolate malt, tannins and coffee.

Body - Even deeper and sweeter, and obviously sherried compared with the others (but it wasn’t so obvious compared to the Cadenheads outturn). Lots of stir fried nuts and a touch of caraway.

Finish - Completely different to the others. Coffee and cigarettes, tannic with plum skins and red wine.

The nose is very in keeping with the others, unmistakably old Bunna again, but the delivery is a completely different beast. Epic.

Douglas Laing XOP, Bunnahabhain 40 years old, 51% A⊕⊕

January 1975-February 2015, DL ref 10704, 258 bottles. This was born only a few days before I was.  And this is the third full marks XOP this year!  They’re nailing it every time (except that Bowmore).  This is still available.  Thanks to Douglas Laing for the sample.

bunnahabhain-40-year-old-1975-cask-10704-xtra-old-particular-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - The intensity of the 38, the elegance of the 39? A touch of bonfire in here, it could just be the proximity to Douglas Laing's other stock for 40 years! Ok, so that familiar old Bunna plus toothpaste, dried poster paints, and brightly coloured Indian sweets (stale and milky, almondy, mainly sugar). And an old man in an old leather jacket (he hasn't smoked today but his jacket still smells of it). Intensely sweet with water, acrylic paint and neat mango squash. Definitely the most important whisky here.

Body - I've just been prevented from making notes for 120 seconds by the intensity of the delivery. It's still going on…. Hang on… I'm not sure how well I can document this delivery but I will try. Big, waxy, sweet and wood oil, but restrained… then Stagg levels of cakey oils, walnut, but more depth… then PX sherry, then old waxed wood and leather chair, red chilli… I think we're into the finish now.

Finish - Oak floorboards and caraway, croissants and butter, sandalwood, liquorice allsorts. Enormous levels of wood, Stagg but Scotched. Even better with water, the bitterness is rounded off... agh I give up.  I’ve run out of whisky anyway.

A (literally) awesome whisky.


  1. Hi Ben

    Any idea why Cadenheads are generally so much cheaper than the other Independant Bottlers on similar whisky's? Looking at these Bunna's (the Cads I bought) The DL (1 yr older) and DT (1 yr younger)are much, much more expensive with no significant age or quality differences. Thoughts?

    1. Because they have the stock and haven't jacked the prices up!

  2. Hey Ben, Curious how you think this 40 yr XOP stacks up with that 35 yr XOP. I had a sample of the 35 year and was totally blown away! Absolutely amazing stuff.