Continuing to write-up some of the whiskies we tasted at our NTSS (North Texas Spirits Society) Blind Tasting, here is a 26 year-old 1987 Bunnahabhain from the Exclusive Malts line. Exclusive Malts is one of the ranges from the Creative Whisky Company (link here) which was founded by David Stirk in 2005. The Creative Whisky Company releases only single cask bottlings in three lines, the Exclusive Malts, the Exclusive Casks range, which are single casks that have been finished in different casks that have held Port, Madeira, and other wines, and the Exclusive Range, which offers whiskies of generally younger ages.
Bunnahabhain was founded in 1881 by the Greenlees brothers, with production starting in 1883. The distillery is located along the northeastern shore of the island of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland.
In 1963 the distillery was expanded and the number of stills doubled, from two to four. The stills are quite large, but are filled just to 47% to allow for more copper contact. The low fill levels and a slower distillation produces a lighter whisky.
Unlike the majority of its Islay peers, Bunnahabhain produces primarily unpeated whiskies, although they have routinely produced some “special releases” that are peated. Also, as with so many distilleries, the whiskies produced at Bunnahabhain were primarily destined for blends, and Bunnahabhain plays a big role in the Black Bottle blended whisky. Recently, though, the owners of Bunnahabhain, Burn Stewart, have begun to put more emphasis in building the brand as a stand-alone single malt with standard official 12, 18 and 25 year-old releases along with their peated Limited Releases like the Toiteach, Moine and Ceòbanach.
Review: Exclusive Malts Bunnahabhain 1987, 26 Yr
Distilled 14th March 1987 and bottled March 2014, this whisky was matured in Cask No. 2784 and this is one of 297 total bottles. This release is bottled at a cask strength of 47.8% abv and is natural color. Sadly, there is no information on the type of cask that this whisky came from, but if I were to guess, I’d say it was a refill sherry hogshead possibly a butt. I’ve sent off an email to Creative Whisky and will amend this comment if I receive a response. While there is some vanilla and the orchard fruits that might indicate a bourbon barrel, the fact that I get the dried fruits, chocolate, and herbal spice notes point toward a sherry maturation. (*Note 9/9: David Stirk responded that this was, indeed, a refill ex-sherry hogshead, possibly a 3rd fill. Thanks to David for the very quick response!)
Nose: Big notes of all sorts of ripe orchard fruits – apples, cherries, peaches – along with some delicate vanilla cream. Quite a bit of sweet malty cereal. There are hints of dried fruits and some herbal spice notes, as well.
Taste: Sweet fruits and vanilla, confectioners sugar, more sweet malty grain notes, some honey, the dried fruits and herbal spices, maybe a hint of chocolate, but it is really the orchard fruits that hold center stage on this one. The body is moderately viscous, somewhat oily, but this is where the youthfulness seems to show up most. It is direct, honest and clean, but it is not overly complex.
Finish: Quite a nice finish, but again, not overly complex. Big notes of the fruits, soft herbal spices, some vanilla and the malt. Reasonably long.
Overall: A very nice whisky, full-bodied and full-flavored, with a reasonable finish; kind of like most of my experiences with Bunnahabhain – a good, high quality malt, but not something that really knocks your socks off.
Bottler: Exclusive Malts
Type: Single Malt
Maturation: No info available
Price: $210 USD (Specs)
Sample Source: Chris G.
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.