Bunnahabhain is spirit which I feel works at an impressively broad range of ages. Bright and fresh young, deep and austere old. Distilled back in 1988, this is from the latter category with three decades of maturation under its belt. Similarly aged to this year’s sought after Feis Ile release – though delivered with a marsala finish rather than champagne. The bottling strength is 47.4% ABV and the RRP has been set at £450.
Nose: Polished mahogany and lacquered wood panelling gives way to intensely reduced apples and sticky, jammy oranges. There’s plenty of creaminess here – old fashioned trifle fortified with 1970s orange liqueurs and café latte with a generous chocolate sprinkle. Resting this whisky not only shows respect for its age, it also presents perceptible benefits – dehydrated orange slices, raisins and sultanas joined by rose hips and potpourri. In the background, aromatic sandalwood alongside clove, anise and orange blossom, whilst running throughout – a greasy vein of engine oil and machine lubricants. Reduction results in a selection of waxes and oils and additional aromas of leather jackets, oven-backed biscuits and savoury water crackers. Complexity personified.
Taste: Waxed parquet flooring, walnut bureaus and teak armchairs are joined by dusty leather bound books and old brittle library tombs. Atop – bright, juicy fruits – orange, mandarin and clementine with a side order of tutti-frutti ice-cream. The development is quite fascinating – vintage liqueurs morph into mentholated oak before remerging green and herbal with spearmint and basil leaves. In the background, anise, nutmeg and dusty cinnamon bubble but never pop. The addition of water adds more fruits into the basket – peaches, mangos and melons alongside fruit teas and wild honey.
Finish: Medium to long with cocoa nibs, coffee grounds and ancient drying oak.
The oldest (and ergo most expensive) of this year’s Limited Edition releases is expectedly excellent. Elegance and indulgence meets a memorable complex nose and impressively balanced palate. Only the rather dry oaky finish holds this back from an even higher score.