Gaelic for ‘peat stack’ Cruach Mhona continues a recent Bunnahabhain trend for completely unpronounceable whisky names. Whilst in 2018, peated Bunna (often termed ‘Moine’ by the distillery itself) is a fairly regularly sight, back in 2010 when Cruach Mhona was first released, it was all a touch more tentative when it came to peating. Over the past 8 years, the volume of peated whisky released by the distillery has steadily increased, and bottlings such as Toiteach and Ceobanach have paved the way for a dual future for Bunnahabhain – unpeated still at its core, but with a healthy pipeline of smokier expressions.
Whilst it is available via online retailers (with around a 30%+ mark-up on the RRP), Cruach Mhona forms part of Bunnahabhain’s travel retail line-up. Indeed, recent trips through various airports would lead me to believe that until An Claddach get its proper rollout (more on that here) that Cruach Mhona is the only widely available travel retail expression from the distillery. The other - Eirigh Na Greine - is a young expression which contains a proportion of wine cask matured whisky. It’s still out there, but I’m starting to see less and less of it, so, perhaps it’s days are a numbered? There’s only so many wine casks out there.
Cruach Mhona is a batch produced whisky. The batch sizes are unspecified, but global travel retails is a very big place, so it’s reasonable to assume that we’re talking about tens of thousands here. It’s also reasonable to assume some degree of batch variance here, talking to others about this particularly bottling. It comes delivered at 50% ABV and in a 1 litre bottle. At London’s Heathrow, this will set you back £65 – if you’re buying this outside of travel retail (and thus paying the premium for that), it’ll be nearer to £85. We’re taking a look at the latest batch – 13.
Nose: Immediately coastal and quite savoury - brine and seashells with a meaty, yeasty quality – rather akin to Bovril. Smoke runs throughout the nose, and is a mixture of oily coal dust, tar and bonfire (but don’t expect it to be at a level from other Islay big hitters). There’s some pleasant citrus here which plays nice against the seaside and meaty aromas. In the background, slight rubber tyres and engine room oil (both regularly fixtures for me within peated expressions from Bunnahabhain). A few drops of water adds some barley and egg noodles as well as oat cakes.
Taste: A medium mouthfeel with slightly oily arrival. Coastal again, but with some grassiness along for the ride. The smoke is a touch more gentle now than on the nose – brine, BBQ’d meats and vegetables (Sunday roast) – still rubbery and still tempered by citrus. It’s sweeter than you might initially expect. In the back palate, things become drying and oaky. The addition of water brings out some apples and further emphasises the citrus flavours, as well as adding a touch of chalkiness and ash.
Finish: Medium in length with herbalness, brine and drying bonfire smoke.
Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona is a crisp, and fairly refreshing peated expression. There’s good clarity of flavour and an agreeable balance between the coastal, meaty, rubbery and citrus flavours. There’s not a great deal of complexity here, and in the back palate, I personally find the oaking to be a little heavy-handed. But, nevertheless, you could do a lot worse than this if in travel retail. And, that’s a big point in terms of pricing – I’d only ever consider buying this in travel retail itself – the bumped price available via retailers outside of travel retail is too much (around £85) for this level of quality (even with a litre of quantity). Wider reviews of this whisky are quite polarised - I'm somewhere in the middle.
With thanks to James Berkeley for the sample.