Last summer Distell launched a series of six new limited edition ‘Malt Galley’ releases from their three Scotland-based distilleries – Two from Bunnahabhain, one from Deanston and three from Tobermory (two peated, one unpeated). The releases were designed to reflect each distillery’s house style whilst using sherry, brandy and red wine maturation to add ‘points of difference’. All six of the expressions have now seen the light of day (some came later in 2018 due to packing issues delaying their release), so today we’ll be closing our account of the series by checking out the limited edition red wine matured peated Bunnahabhain.
The Bunnahabhain 2008 Moine Bordeaux red wine cask matured (quite the mouthful) was released last summer as a limited edition of 4,536 bottles. Unlike other recent moine expressions (e.g. moine brandy) from the distillery, this one is a full-term maturation. Likewise, it’s the only expression from the 2018 Malt Gallery releases that has not used its predecessor cask for a finish. It was distilled back in December 2008, and bottled at 58.1% at the start of 2018 making it 9 years of age. As a limited edition, it sold out relatively quickly (at around £75 from memory) – but it seems to be clocking in at around £90 (plus fees) currently at auction – so there’s not a particularly brutal premium if you’re still looking to pick up a bottle.
Nose: Dry ashy smoke with bright juicy berries. Raspberries and cherries present as both ripe and freshly picked as well as syrupy and reduced. They’re joined by a heady peat influence that’s meaty with stock and charred fat, and deep with aromatic tobacco and spent coffee grounds. Maple syrup adds additional sweetness, whilst shale and limestone reinforce the ash with some residue chalkiness. Reduction leads to an increased intensity of red berry fruits – but only after a period of resting in the glass. It also adds some chocolate sauce, milky mocha and air-dried ham.
Taste: The arrival provides much more intensity than the nose suggested – midway between creamy and oily in terms of body, but surprisingly drinkable at its natural ABV. Raspberries and cherries are joined by cranberries and redcurrants in a sweet reduced cordial. This quickly gives way to an impressive wave of charry smoke that’s packed full of tar, coal dust, graphite and ash. The mid-palate reveals meatiness and cask influence with pepper and sappy oakiness. Water adds real juiciness to the fruit element, not changing the sweetness levels, but adding some balance so that the intense smoke doesn’t run roughshod over the lighter fruitier elements. It brings with it some chalky texture and a sprinkle of salinity.
Finish: Medium to long with tar and Black Jack chews. Ashiness sits with darker berries, pepper and drying oak.
The red wine influence on this Bunnahabhain moine is felt immediately on the nose – plenty of bright red berry influence, adding sweet to the peat. The palate, whilst certainly super tasty, presents these fruity flavours more mutedly with the smoke being firmly in charge of proceedings. Nevertheless, this offers an experience that seems far more mature than its mere 9 years of age. I find the cask selection sympathetic to the spirit, and there’s good balance to be found with the right combination of patience and dilution.