Thanks to /u/xile_ for pouring a sample.
Bunnahabhain. People love it, people hate it, people “meh” it, people “alright” it.
My bias on Bunnahabhain is simple: I typically see younger peated versions or very old versions. The older versions used to be the best value for an older malt at cask strength. Younger versions are great for brand new peatheads.
And the whisky is rarely ever great. It’s rarely bad. It’s right there in the bell curve. Which is great if you’re buying inexpensive releases. And not-so-great if you’re paying a premium.
Got it? Alright, simple. The above is where I’ve come down. It doesn’t stop me from buying Bunnahabhain, but it certainly doesn’t help. Also it means when there’s a new offering, either from OB or IB, all I hear are Original Trilogy quotes that were spoken by a fish.
Enter Bunnahabhain SMWS 10.190 “Make moine a devil”. And the ultimate question:
Given I’m not a fan of SMWS, and have officially stated that peated young Bunnahabhain doesn’t really change much, why did you have another one?
Oh, no one is asking that except the voice in my head that I use as a lead in? Great!
This release is a special one for 2020 Feis Ile, aka auction bait. It’s a 6-year-old peated Bunnahabhain (we can tell by the “Moine”, which is gaelic for peat) aged in 2nd Fill ex-Oloroso Sherry butt.
I’m not enthused. Look, special releases aren’t a no-go. But the stats on this one is screaming “I don’t wanna”. 6 years? And aged in 2nd-fill? Did they forget it was happening? If this was my homework it’d be the essay I wrote on the bus once and got a C- because of pity.
But I’ve been wrong before, so let’s see if Mr. Judgey McJudge-a-lot is right, shall we?
Vintage: October 17, 2013
Stated Age: 6-years-old
Cask type: 2nd Fill Ex-Oloroso Sherry Butt
Bottled for: Islay Festival 2020
Number of bottles: 616
Colour: 10YR 7/10
Nose: Plum, gingerbread, yeast, peach, honeycomb
Ok, the initial plum from the sherry makes sense. Richer than I expected from Oloroso. Then you get this lovely strong ginger/spice note, and then… wait, is that a different flavour? Yeast?
This has a lovely, tasty, inviting nose and I don’t know why.
Taste: Peanut brittle, grape juice, marzipan, brown sugar, grassy
Wait, this has flavours going on? Alright, buckle up, guess it’s the 20s now and weird shit just happens because it’s going to.
Well developed nuttiness, good use of sweetness, some grassy notes, and not a ton of peat blasting it all out.
Finish: Peanut, nori, peat, anise, gingersnaps
Nutty, umami, spice galore, and some honest basic peat. I’m still surprised how developed this is.
Conclusion: This has no right to be as tasty as it is. But it is. I don’t get it. For years there have been copy and pastes of young peated Bunnahabhains through SMWS. I’ve tried some, bought some, and ranted at others. Nothing about this should be half as good as it is.
You have unique flavours, the whisky going beyond the sherry but still using it, the peat doesn’t wipe it all out… We’re sure it’s the normal amount of peat they use, right? Maybe, maybe not.
Listen, if you’re in SMWS for your own reasons, and you’re like me, and are surprised there’s still nuggets of corn in this particular poop pile. Or a diamond in the rough if you feel the need to drag out Aladin more than it has been.
If you like developed peat, grab this. Ignore the stats and history (this time). Somehow it worked.
Scotch review #1441, Islay review #383, Whisky Network review #2128