One last peated-sherried malt to close out the month. This one is unlike the others I’ve reviewed this month. For one thing it’s not from a distillery known for its peated malt, at least not at the time at which this was distilled, back in 1999. While Bunnahabhain now puts out official releases of peated malt, independent bottlers used to be the only sources of peated Bunnahabhain from this era. I’ve had a few 1997s that were peated (see here, here and here) but this will be my first 1999, I think. This is also not a heavily sherried malt—it’s from a refill sherry cask and the colour of the whisky suggests it was a long way from being a first-fill cask. The bottler too has no real reputation. In fact, I’m still not sure who was behind Prime Malt which put out a number of releases in the US in the 2000s. I was under the impression that Duncan Taylor were the source but Whiskybase lists the bottler as Gordon Bonding and I have no idea who they are/were. If you know more about them please write in below. In the meantime let’s get to this whisky.
Bunnahabhain 10, 1999 (43%; Prime Malt; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Malt and sweet notes of cream and pastry crust to start and then quite a bit of lemon and a lick of mild, non-phenolic smoke (more in the hot stones and ozone family); there’s a floral note too. (Where’s the sherry?) With more time there’s some lime on the nose. With a few drops of water the hot stones turn into hot wet stones and it all melds together nicely.
Palate: The peat is to the fore here—which is not to say it’s more intense—with some ashy notes joining the hot stones. Very nice texture for 43%. No real sign of the sherry here to at first. Not at second either but the peat intensifies and it gets a touch bitter (coffee grounds). With time the malt and the acid from the nose begin to show up here as well. With a few drops of water the smoke picks up some char and it’s once again the dominant note.
Finish: Medium-long. The peat is the main note here; the bitter note turns a bit plasticky as it goes. Longer and as on the palate with water.
Comments: This must have been an nth refill sherry cask. An interesting and pleasant whisky though, albeit with a lot more happening on the nose than on the palate, where the peat is the main event and the supporting act. I don’t know how much this went for but this is a very nice daily drinker. I have a friend who doesn’t mind a bit of earthy smoke but is not a fan of phenolic notes. This would have been perfect for her.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample.
I asked the distillery manager about this when I was there and he swore up and down that they hadn’t done any peated whisky between 1997 and 2003. Which makes this all the more interesting because it’s likely the cask bringing the peat rather than the spirit.
If so, I wonder what the source of the cask might have been—I didn’t find the peat to be phenolic at all.