Bunnahabhain 11, 2004, Rubha A’ Mhail

In August I reviewed Lagavulin’s 2015 Feis Ile release. Here now is Bunnahabhain’s 2015 Feis Ile release, or at least one of them. This is an 11 yo with a long Gaelic name and is composed of spirit matured full-term in two Manzanilla sherry butts. You don’t often see Manzanilla-matured whisky around and so this is intriguing. Or at least so I thought at the gathering in St. Paul to which my friend Pat brought the bottle from which this sample was poured. However, I didn’t think very highly of it at the time. It’s true that we tasted it at the end of the evening on the heels of some rather impressive older malts and so it is possible that the juxtaposition was not in its favour. True to form I then forgot about this sample for a long time. As it happens, I’ve not reviewed much Bunnahabhain recently—in fact, I’ve not reviewed any this year so far—and so it’s a good job I happened on this jar while trying to organize my backlog of sample bottles last month. Anyway, let’s see what I make of it tonight as I give it my full attention.

Bunnahabhain 11, 2004, Rubha A’ Mhail (57.4; Manzanilla casks 550 & 554; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Big sherry bomb nose with some rubbery notes (tennis ball can) mixed in with the citrus and toffee. On the second sniff that rubbery thing is more pronounced—some milky cocoa below it. A little juicier as it sits (plum, cherry) and the rubbery note recedes. With more time and air it’s better integrated: a melange of red fruit, orange peel, toffee and oak. Richer with a few drops of water.

Palate: Leads with the standard issue sherry notes here; gets quite drying as I swallow. Very hot at full strength. Sweeter on the second sip and oakier. This is going to need air and water. Well, air doesn’t do much for it—let’s see if water can rescue it. Well, somewhat: it pushes the oak back a bit; much saltier too now. With a little more time the oak gets talkative again and there’s some mouth-furring sulphur.

Finish: Long. The oak really pops out here and it’s a bit much for me; a bit of sherry separation too, leaving an indistinct sweetness floating over tannic oak. As on the palate with water: less oak, less sherry separation, more salt. And then with more time the sulphur hangs out here too—it’s not very prominent or objectionable but it’s there.

Comments: The nose is nice enough but on the palate it is rawer than its 11 years would indicate. Better with water but I’ve had better NAS sherry bombs than this. The casks seem to have been rather active, and while this may have been a full-term maturation it tastes like a finish. Speaking of which, the finish was my least favourite part. Unless you’re a Bunnahabhain completist I don’t think there is any reason to pay the current secondary market price.

Rating: 81 points.

Thanks to Pat T. for the sample!


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