My first and long overdue encounter with Bunnahabhain was at the recent opening of the Highlander Whisky Bar at the Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay, an establissement that has established itself as the home of whisky shows and related events, where it was recommended to me over a dispute of the merits of Islay whiskies.
Whisky Bars are mushrooming in Sydney yet the Highlander Bar has an edge with owner of renowned Alchemist Events and founder of the emporium known as World of Whisky, whisky luminary and conferencier par excellence David Ligoff having been at the helm when it came to curating the bar and its special offerings, e.g. a bespoke Whisky High Tea, with savoury and whisky infused sweet treats accompanied by a flight of the Chivas range, along with a ‘Whisky of the Month’ proffering rare and limited bottlings and bi- monthly Whisky Masterclasses with witty as Wilde themed tastings aimed to both educate and entertain – which they sure will as they will be conducted b whisky connoisseur David Ligoff himself.
Highlander Bar will for sure became a go-to third place – no matter if you are local or visiting from overseas - with its inviting ambience and portfolio of unique whiskies, many of which have never been tasted before on terra australis.
Now, Bunnahabhain – founded in 1881 and one of the great Islay eight I have not been exposed to, which upon the second sip of its 12 Years Old proved to be a shame. A wonderful atypical Islay drop as it does not rely on peat, which the whiskies from the Hebridean are usually known for.
Clocking in at 46.3%, non-chill filtered and natural in colour, it is surprisingly smooth and as soon as the nostrils are tickled by its dark fruit aromas and orangey chocolate notes, it elicits a Pavlovian response.
What materializes on the palate takes things to the next level, with the malty undertones of the oily mouthfeel being serenaded by apple, saline coastal and sherry notes and just a hint of subtle smokiness, of which we get more with the elongated finish that mixes in a bit of char and a nice melange of fruity spices.
A light-bodied yet nicely rounded complex expression from Islay, which benefits from the Sherry cask maturation and one that would serve as a great introduction to anyone who grapples with peatiness. Ideal for an after-dinner dram.
Intrigued by the 12-Year-Old, I ventured on to a fairly new Bunnahabhain expression going under the Gaelic guise of Stiùireadair. An homage to the distillery’s shoreline, it is not unlike the 12-Year-Old bottled at 46.3% after having been matured in first and second fill Sherry casks.
On the nose there are sugary raisiney blackberry notes that with its malty core form a nice melange with the maritime character that forms the DNA of this drop, which pervades through to the palate in a warm manner, where nutty honey nuances meet hints of spicy cinnamon, spirity notes and sea salt.
The creamy finish is where things are taken up a notch as the Sherry casks shine through and what lingers is an exquisitely delicate chilli-chocolate character, that leaves one lusting for another dram.
Photos by T
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