"Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whisky, and a dog to eat the rare steak.” - Johnny Carson

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Bunnahabhain. Making great whisky and room for growth!

Bunnahabhain. This distillery is beautiful! It is on a one way dirt road down the hill towards the water. On really clear days you can walk out on their pier and see The Isle of Mull/Tobermory distillery just a ways north! They are the most remote distillery on the island and you are definitely going to come face to face with tractor trailers taking spirit away and bringing in malt. It was founded in 1881 and is now owned by Distell (Burn Stewart), the South African beverage company. The distillery used to be quite the powerhouse on the island. All of the workers lived on site and there was even a school for the workers children. Now you will see those houses as you approach the distillery and only three are still currently inhabited.

 

Highland Distillers (to become Edrington Group) used to own the distillery before it was sold to Distell and it was primarily used to produce unpeated whisky for American market blends. It has only been since 2005, under the new ownership, that they released peated single malt’s to the market. All of their un-malted barley comes from Simpsons on the main land and the 10% of lightly peated malt comes from Port Ellen. They have quite a large mash tun that can hold up to 15 tons of grist. I believe Glenfarclas has the largest at 15.5 tons of grist capacity. Four waters are run through the mash and they are running about 8 mashes per week. I wanted to make note that due to the size of their mash tun, their under back was huge! This makes sense of course. There are 6 wooden washbacks that can each hold up to 100,000 liters! They only put in 66,500 liters of wort and this way they don’t need to worry too much about controlling foam. The fermentation period will last for a minimum of 80 hours.  There are two pairs of stills and they are definitely left unpolished, unlike many popular distilleries in the Speyside region. I found out in my GCD class that polishing can decrease reflux, so when you see an unpolished still, know that it wasn’t out of laziness, it is out of process! The stills are huge as well. The wash still can hold over 35,000 liters and the spirits still can hold just over 15,000 liters of wash.

 

Right now Bunnahabhain is at about 1.7 million liters of new make spirit per year. There is definitely room for growth and at their maximum capacity they could be making about 2.6 million liters/year. One of the reasons they cannot increase is due to warehouse availability. They have almost every single cask of Bunnahabhain aging on site.  Dr Kirstie McCallum is their master blender and they mainly age spirit within bourbon or sherry casks. So far they have never peated anything above 35PPM and they have three NAS bottlings in the market at the moment. Bottling happens on the mainland, so everything is going over by ferry. My new made friends at the distillery really hit it off and they gave me so many different drams to try! Here are a few of my favorites….

 

12 Year Old Bunnahabhain

 

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Woody raisins, snickerdoodle cookies and some campfire smoke.

Palate: Raspberry fig newton, vanilla almond and some smoke.

 

18 Year Old Bunnahabhain

 

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Raspberry strudel, almonds, vanilla ice cream.

Palate: Nutty, dried fruits, cherry pie, peat and really good cherry vanilla cola.
 

A few from the NAS range…

 

Toiteach - Non-age statement

 

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Fresh earthy peat, grass, herbaceous, honey and cheese gold fish or craft macaroni and cheese.

Palate: Fresh flowers, honeysuckle, tangerines, peat and some salty saggy rags almost.

 

Ceobanach - Non-age statement- peated 35PPM

 

Holly’s Tasting Note..

Nose: Green tea mocha, green tea, honey, warm sweet peat, peaches and smoke.

Palate: The peat hits first then white peach, sour patch kids. Not as sweet on the palate as the nose.

 

I really enjoyed my time at Bunnahabhain. I think their branding is a little harsh with the black bottles and the labeling colors, but I think they are a brand to look out for! I expect to see them continue to grow. Their non-age statement line was pretty impressive.

 

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