Lost at sea

Posted 08 May 2018 by Matt / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble's tasting notes for Bunnahabhain An Cladach

Bottle Name: Bunnahabhain An Cladach

ABV: 50%
Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay

We’ve had to wait quite some time for An Cladach – its been 9 months since this new travel retail bottling was first announced – whether the distillery or parent company Distell have had production issues, or whether the PR agency hit ‘go’ on the press release all too soon, who’s to say – but, regardless, it’s far from the best method for introducing a new expression into the increasingly busy (and often times odd) space that is global travel retail. Nevertheless, An Cladach is now looking like it’s finally ready to dock following a month of exclusivity at Frankfurt airport.

What An Cladach actually is is unfortunately rather opaque. The bottling provides a translation of An Cladach as ‘The Shore’ and then dives head first into elaborately florid descriptions of explorers and remote locations before making sure that we’re all suitably impressed by just how famous and awesome the distillery is. None of this in any way relates to the fishing boat illustration on the cardboard tube – which apparently has its own story to tell. What we can discern is that this is a sherried whisky presented naturally coloured, un-chillfiltered and at 50% ABV.

Nose: Obvious sherry influence with toffee, raisins and a punnet of red berries – but all a little mildewed and damp rather than bright and juicy. A slightly metallic aroma hints at copper, reflux and youthfulness – this sits alongside nuttiness (hazelnut), chocolate, coffee (of the instant granulated type) and some struck match. The addition of water changes the fruit composition introducing stone fruits, as well as cake sponge and baking spices.

Taste: An oily and juicy arrival – 50% suits this nicely. Red berries are up front, and include a combination of fresh, dried and hedgerow varieties. Chocolate, toffee, dates and figs provide some sherried depth and are again joined by underlying earthiness. There’s both a slight steeliness as well as some rawness/almost new make quality around the edges. In the mid to back palate, nuts, spice (predominantly pepper) and wood – with only the first two of these being successful – the oak here is quite sour and rather jarring against the sweeter sherry influences. Water improves the balance of sweet vs. sour – but in doing so loses the viscosity on the arrival.

Finish: Short to medium with dried berries, chocolate and an over enthusiastic amount of sour, astringent wood.

An Cladach is rather discombobulating. Whilst it’s delivered in a litre bottle for a relatively reasonable price (56 Euros at Frankfurt airport at present) I’m struggling to understand its overall proposition. As a younger sherried dram, it shares a lot of DNA with the distillery’s core range 12 year old – except, it’s nowhere near as solid an offering. There’s some agreeable flavour combinations here, but like Bunna’s wine cask influenced Eirigh Na Greine (also previously available in travel retail) there’s just too much infancy here, and some quite perceptible sulphur. 

Whilst transparency levels are slowly improving in some areas of the whisky world, travel retail is not one of those areas. An Cladach makes no exceptions here either, presenting the drinker with little useful information as to exactly what they’re drinking. Recent NAS bottlings from Bunnahabhain (especially last year’s excellent Moine Oloroso) have all floated my boat, but this fishing vessel is lost with all hands for me.

Score: 75/100

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