Woah, this one has snuck up on me a bit. I’ve had the post planned for a while, but when I came to checking it over before posting, I found it was only half done! Just a bunch of random sentances, no narrative, very little detail… time to cobble something together.
I’m going to assume you can imagine my excitement at coming into possession of this one (full story here), given that it was distilled in 1979. Not only is that an absurdly long time ago, it is the year after I was born which… frankly goes only to reiterate what an absurdly long time ago it was. Everything in my life, except for the nine womb months and a lot of pooing and crying happened in between this Islay malt being distilled (by Bunnahabhain), aged (by Berry Bros and Rudd), bottled 32 years later (also by Berry Bros and Rudd), purchased (by my father-in-law), wrapped up (presumably by my father-in-law’s wife) and then given to me as a Christmas present in December 2013. I then freed this liquid from the bottle and released it back into the great cycle of life between March and June 2014. It has taken me since then to get around to telling you about it. It’s a good job you haven’t been holding your breath.
I think that’s a worthy enough introduction, don’t you?
Yes, the excitement you can imagine – I was starting to think I’d never get to own a bottle this old – actually, that should be spirit, shouldn’t it? The bottle would only be 2 years old or so, it is the whisky that’s aged 32 years – though it had existed in its bottled form for 34 years by the time it came into my possession. I might be over doing this now… Anyway, sure; you can always try ridiculously old whiskies at tastings and festivals, but this one would be more or less all mine.
I opened it when friends came round to announce their engagement. There may also have been a cigar involved. So anyway, let’s have a look.
There was no box accompanying this one, just a reassuringly standard bottle and an intriguing label. It is bottled from a single cask at a hearty 51.8%, and is surprisingly dark in colour – almost like a Spanish brandy or dark rum. No information has been provided as to what kind of cask this was aged in so I can only speculate, but I’m not going to beyond some kind of… sherry… cask.
Bunnahabhain is of course, an Islay distillery, but is known for producing a more mildly peated spirit than most of its neighbours.
As you’d expect, we tried it straight and yeah, it’s strong both in alcohol burn and in flavour. In fact, it tastes a little burnt in its raw state but it opens up and sweetens nicely with the addition of water. It’s certainly fruity and I’m tempted to describe dried fruit on the nose, but that doesn’t seem sufficient.
If you hold it, neat, for a really long time there’s a fleeting impression of dark, dark chocolate but, i should you add more than a few drops of water, to the point where you think you might have added too much, there’s apple pie and cinnamon. I found this interesting, but my personal preference is to keep the dilution at just a few drops and preserve that bite that lets you know you’re drinking the strong stuff, while easily masking the flavour of spring water.
Now, Jim Murray had suggested Bunnahabhain doesn’t handle extreme aging so well and that might have put me off buying something like this for myself (as might the price tag, despite being fairly bargainous for this age of spirit), but on the strength of this evidence, I disagree with him. It does remain to be seen what a distillery bottling of comparable age would be like, though they retail for double or even more than I know (or strongly suspect) this bottling to have cost (which was about £90 – again, check my earlier post for more details).
I can only conclude that this is a terrific malt that that throws up all kinds of questions. How come it came to be aged for 32 years? Where was it aged? How was it aged?... How frickin’ nice is this?!?
That’s the important one: how fricking nice. There’s been a lot of spirit drinking over the course of this year, and when I look back, as I will do in a couple of weeks for my Spirits of the Year post, I’m certain I’ll be looking back on this one with fondness as one of the cream of the crop. I suppose this means it’s getting on for time I bought a Bunnahabhain distillery bottling for myself. I’m sure that day is growing ever closer.
Thanks for joining me once again. You know I’ll be back next week with some more booze adventures. It can’t’ve escaped your notice that the booziest time of the year is approaching and, while I have no plans to post anything specific about Christmas (or New Year) over the period you can rest assured I’ll be diving headlong into all the extra research that I get to take part in. Have a great week, and I’ll see you later.