After a week of Caol Ila, let’s keep the peat fires burning a little while longer. We’ll stay on Islay for the first review of the week, at a distillery not primarily known for its peated malt: Bunnahabhain. Well, they weren’t traditionally known for their peated malt; these days they make a fair bit of it—you’re not going to lose money in Scotland selling smoky whisky. This one, very young at six years of age, is not an official release. It was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It began its life in a bourbon hogshead before being finished in a recharred cask (HTMC=heavily toasted, medium char?) and bottled at an eye-watering strength. Youth? Heavily peated? Big oak contact? Stupid strength? It checks almost all the boxes for whisky I am normally wary of. Hopefully, it will all work somehow. Let’s see.
Bunnahabhain 6, 2013 (60.3%; SMWS 10.202; bourbon hogshead + HTMC finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Starts off fairly mild with cocoa, cream and just a hint of char. As it sits some salt emerges and then there’s a bit more smoke—charred woodsmoke. Not much change here with time. A few drops of water and…it’s much the same; the smoke just a little more savoury.
Palate: Comes in sweet with more oak presence (not tannic). The smoke expands as I swallow. Approachable enough at full strength with decent texture. More oak bite and sweetness with time and more char. The sweet notes and the char merge as it sits, the whole turning more savoury (charred pork). Okay, let’s see what water does for it. Well, it pulls out more smoke but it also pulls the sharp oak from the finish out earlier.
Finish: Long. The smoke gets more acidic/sharp here and then the salt emerges again at the end. With time the oak gets a bit too talkative here. Not much change here with water.
Comments: A very engineered young whisky but, for the most part, it works. Just a bit too much oak on the late palate and finish. Would probably be appreciated even more by the regular bourbon drinker.
Rating: 85 points.