Today marks a small landmark for The Dramble – our 100th tasting note. We’ve already had some real highs (Balvenie Tun 1401) and some incredible lows (Fujikai 10 year old) along our journey, but Danny and I would both like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you’ve given us since our launch back in April 2017. To celebrate our landmark tasting note, I’ve pulled out something old and interesting for today’s post – Bunnahabhain 1973 38 year old, bottled by Malts of Scotland.
Some time ago, Danny and I embarked on a whisky road trip around the Highlands, starting up in Wick at Old Pulteney, we spent a week visiting all the distilleries we could on the drive back down to Inverness. One of our stop-overs was at the marvellous Dornoch Castle Hotel – home of one of the very best whisky bars in the world run by the Thompson brothers. We sampled a fair few incredible drams whilst with Phil and Simon (indeed, I’ve just discovered I still have the photo of bottles we managed to sample our way through), but one in particular made an immediate impression on me.
Bunnahabhain is to my mind quite the chameleon of the whisky world – it works well in a wide variety of cask types, with both its unpeated and peated styles, and indeed across a broad spectrum of ages. In particular, I feel that Bunna is one of a relatively small group of whiskies which can still show off the inherent quality of its spirit at higher ages (over 30+ years). So, when I spotting the 1973 38 year old bottled by German independent bottler Malts of Scotland at Dornoch, I was always going to be getting stuck right in. Long story short, upon my return from Scotland a week later I scoured the Internet to purchase a bottle of my own – this was no easy task and likewise didn’t come cheap either.
Nose: A tremendous nose. Commencing with strong furniture polish, honey, vanilla, almonds and a touch of desiccated coconut. It’s a little tight an compact (no surprise given the 38 years of age) so it needs to breath for a good 30 minutes. After – orange peels and blossoms, some damp vegetal notes akin to mushrooms and a lovely tract of herbalness – menthol. The polish is reduced down to more of a varnish and some leathery, chocolate aromas arise – a hint at the sherry cask I suspect. There’s just a touch of struck match going on here, but overall, aged ripe and tropical fruits are the order of the day. Glorious.
Taste: Rich and much more lively than the nose – though polish and wood influence is still highly present. Big oaky (but not overpowering) notes interplay with cask spicing in the form of ginger and cinnamon. Orange marmalade and some tart citrus notes provide warmth and immediacy. Chocolate and cocoa come out to play alongside mild dried berries, again, revealing the delicate and understated sherry influence.
Finish: Long, emphasising wood spice, but with discernible fruit still in play. A perfect level of astringency and bitterness.
I adored this Bunnahabhain at first taste in Dornoch, and still do. Polish and wood are in command, but the distillery profile is still intact after 38 years of maturation. The butt used here is undoubtedly a refill as the sherry influence is low-key rather than in the driving seat – and that’s what makes this whisky tick – many of the notes are more atypically bourbon cask, but the additional subtle butt-influence (snerk) has married wonderfully to the underlying Bunna spirit. You’ll need to enjoy some big old, oaky and polished wood flavours to get the most out of this (and you’ll need to take your time and rest it properly), but if that is a style of whisky you enjoy then this is one to hunt out.