James MacArthur’s Fine Malt Selection ran from the early 1990’s all the way through to 2014 with some 343 separate bottlings (according to Whiskybase). The series covered a huge selection of Scottish distilleries – a fair of which are now permanently closed – including the unicorn distillery Malt Mill. MacArthur’s 10 year old Malt Mill (the only bottling known in existence from this distillery) originated from a blender’s sample – as such, there are only four 50cl miniatures out there. One of them sold on Scotch Whisky Auctions earlier this year for £3,400 (plus fees).
Somewhat on the more affordable end of the spectrum is this 16 year old Bunnahabain – the oldest of three 1978 expressions released by MacArthur for this Fine Malt Selection in the mid-90s.
Nose: A day trip to a coffee house - Foamy latte, freshly made espresso and spent grounds. As if this was not unctuous enough, there’s also soft fudge, milk chocolate, sponge cake, ginger nut biscuits and almond brittle. Impressively, none of these are overly saccharine – just warming and highly comforting. In the background, freshly made orange juice and light florals – sage and dandelion. The addition of water adds breakfast bakery – pancakes and waffles.
Taste: An intriguing arrival that starts softly, but builds in concentration. Green cooking apples and ripe pears intensify into stewed and spiced orchard fruits – packed with flavours and depth. We’re never too far from the coffee house here though – flat white (we all know what that is right?!) and mocha both add creaminess and richness. They sit alongside wood polish, old sticks and aged tree bark – these provide a fair whack of tannins, which in this instance temper the sweet fruits and syrupy creaminess. Reduction adds apricots and an interesting sherbet fizz rather akin to champagne bubbles – tart but effervescent.
Finish: Long and drying with milk chocolate, coffee beans and a progressive drying fade.
A particularly tasty Bunnahabhain that’s removed any desire I might have had to visit Starbucks. Well-balanced, defined and a bit of a hug in a glass.
With thanks to Loz (@loz_green).