Signatory’s Bunnahabhain 26 year (1988) 48.6%

Next up in our Signatory set, is an unusual Islay… Bunnahabhain is known for going against the grain of smokey, peaty character. The friend who first introduced me years ago to Bunnahabhain joked it was known as a ‘ladies’ whisky for its fresh, aromatic seaside quality rather than bold peat monster.

This just so happens to be yet another bottle acquired during a trip to Singapore. When I have time, one of my favourite stops is La Maison du Whisky. You can count on having a good chat, sample some wares and always walk away with something a bit different.

They also have an arrangement with Signatory for a few special  ‘La Maison du Whisky’ bottles – including from their Cask Strength Collection. This particular Bunnahabhain just so happens to be a delightful example.

2016-02-19 Bunnahabhain 1988

As always, our original tasting group first samples completely blind, knowing nothing about the whisky… these are our impressions…
Bunnahabhain 26 years (6 June 1988 / 7 Aug 2014) Cask No 1874, 175 bottles 48.6%
  • Colour  – Pale gold
  • Nose – “Yowza!” (in a good way) Iodine, quite vegetal, moss, forrest, a medicinal phenolic quality, dried orange peel, cardboard (think amazon parcel with scotch tape), walnuts then more citrus then a light sourness
  • Palate – Thick, sweet, muggy, that vegetal quality followed through on the palate, bitter zucchini, lentils, an earthy element, extremely dry, yet lots of body, lots of layers… chewy, peaty
  • Finish – A stubborn, long spicy, bitter finish – quite superb!
  • Water – Opens to sweet coffee
  • Speculation – Definitely an independent bottler, single cask, cask strength, likely in the 48% range, reminiscent of a superior Oban
  • Overall – The palate has far more character and substance than the nose – a reverse of what we find with most whiskies. Again for some – an absolute favourite for the evening.

And the reveal? A complete surprise!

None even one considered the region could be Islay – understandable as it was neither a characteristically peaty Islay nor a typical Bunnahabhain.

And the age? Not even one guessed we were sipping something laid to mature in 1988!

However when the whisky context sunk in, ‘click!’ it all made sense.

Some older whiskies have an interesting but slightly subdued nose with a superior palate, possessing multiple layers even in a whisky that overall isn’t massively complex. There is just something about hanging around in the cask a bit longer that gives a certain ‘weight’ to the whisky profile.

Alas as this is a unique Bunnahabahain, I could find relatively little additional information, though I do recall Diago from La Maison du Whisky sharing it was an experiment with light peat, making it quite a distinctive dram from this distillery.

Pour mes amis qui comprennent le Française, here is what La Maison du Whisky has to say about this particular bottle:

Single cask #1874 – Sherry Butt Éditionlimitée à 175 bouteilles – Une ExclusivitéLMDW

  • Profil : délicat et poudré. Notes minérales (terre, racines), cacaotées et fumées. Fruits exotiques qui se transforment en fruits secs. Très fine note de tourbe.
  • Nose : fin, onctueux. Derrière la fine âcreté de la fumée de tourbe, on perçoit des fleurs des champs (pissenlit, coquelicot) et des fruits exotiques (ananas, banane). Au fur et à mesure, l’empreinte tourbée se fait plus marquée. De la réglisse verte flirte alors avec des notes de terre et de racines. Plus tard, des fruits secs (noix, amande) leurs emboîtent le pas.
  • Palate : ample, riche. Son attaque est soyeuse, presque crémeuse (lait de coco). Une très fine note de tourbe sèche est présente de bout en bout. Puis des agrumes confits (citron), des fruits exotiques (mangue, goyave) et des plantes aromatiques (tilleul, laurier) procurent beaucoup de profondeur au milieu de bouche. Parfaite symbiose entre le nez et la bouche.
  • Overall : longue, duveteuse. Elle délivre avec profusion des notes de réglisse verte, de Havane et de noix verte. Ses tannins poudrés (cacao) prennent possession du palais avant qu’ils ne laissent place à de nouveaux fruits secs (datte, figue sèche) et aux épices (cardamome, curry, badiane). La rétro-olfaction est herbacée (lichen) et fruitée (citron jaune). Le verre vide est d’une remarquable fraîcheur fruitée (cassis, cerise noire).

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