Bunnahabhain 1997-2010 (Murray McDavid)


Okay after two reviews of things that are not whisky, let’s get back to whisky. But this might be barely whisky. It’s a Murray McDavid red wine-bothered Bunnahabhain, and Murray McDavid wine-bothered anything is rarely a good idea (see, for example, this Bowmore from red wine casks and also this Bowmore from white wine casks). The only sign of hope is that this is one of those peated 1997 Bunnahabhains and that kind of heavy, organic peat (as opposed to Bowmore’s more delicate, floral variety) can theoretically stand up more successfully to the depredations of a red wine finish. Will that be the case here though? Let’s see.

This is another sample that I acquired a long time ago—from Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail—and am only getting around to opening now.

Bunnahabhain 1997-2010 (46%; Murray McDavid; Bordeaux finish; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Ashy smoke off the top mixed in with smouldering leaves and meaty notes (grilled, glazed pork). Sweeter fruit as it sits (orange peel, raisins). With more time it’s a nice mix of earthy peat, ashy smoke and raisiny sweetness. With a few drops of water there are softer notes of vanilla and cereals and the earthy notes recede.

Palate: I’m struck first by the texture which is a bit too thin for my liking. Ashy smoke here too and the peat is earthier and progressively more vegetal with each sip; some coffee grounds in there too. No overbearing wine notes, at least not at first. As it sits, sweeter notes emerge but the smoke is still to the fore and still earthy and ashy. With more time there’s a bit of wine separation. Let’s see if water fixes or exacerbates that. Water makes the smoke sharper here and pushes the vegetal/earthy notes back.

Finish: Long. The smoke gets both tarrier and drier at the same time and there’s some pencil lead here too. With time it gets more acidic on the finish and the smoke begins to pick up some carbolic notes. As on the palate with water.

Comments: This is no red winesky. Indeed, there’s not much sign of the red wine cask: no cologne-like notes nor overbearing red fruit. Thats all good. The smoke here is more on the char end of the spectrum—I wouldn’t describe it as very phenolic. The best of the (few) red wine Murray McDavid wine cask finishes I’ve had.

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Jordan for the sample! (Here is his review—he liked it even more than I did.)

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