As I mentioned in my review of Bunnahabhain 12 Year, the distillery did a run of 38 PPM heavily peated malt back in 1997. After slumbering for about a dozen years in an ex-bourbon barrel, Mark Reyner's independent bottling company Murray McDavid snapped up a cask and transferred it to an ex-wine barrel from Chateau Lafite Rothschild in what they call Additional Cask Enhancement (ACE). With an outrun of 1200 bottles, I'm pretty sure this must be a multicask release (a Bordeaux barrel is usually 225 liters, which is about 375 750 mL bottles of whisky diluted from 57% to 46%).
I'm sad to say that I got one of the last bottles from The Party Source (and I am so, so glad I took a risk on this one), so you're probably out of luck unless you can get it from Mission Liquors.
Nose: gentle but insistent vegetal/smoky peat, herbal/floral notes, underlying malt, creamy vanilla, light wine cask influence, raisins, a dry savoriness that is slightly meaty. After adding a few drops of water, the peat loses some of its edge - shifting more towards an herbal/vegetal mode, the malt becomes sweeter and more assertive with less wine influence
Taste: malty sweetness up front, wine/vanilla flavors gain traction across the tongue - bringing some jammy fruit (strawberry?) along, peat and pepper hit mid-palate with with a hefty dose of fudge and coffee beans, some floral notes emerge near the back. After dilution, the peat really settles down, letting the wine cask influence shine with a wine/chocolate/malt trio running throughout, pepper and oak are subdued at the back
Finish: very long - bittersweet peat, coffee beans, pepper, vanilla, and umami/savory notes
This is, in my opinion, a simply magnificent whisky. ACEing gets derided as too often being used to gussy up lousy casks or overwhelming the underlying malt whisky, but this one works out perfectly. The sweet wine cask flavors are a great compliment to the strong peat flavors, which are also mellowed by the ex-bourbon cask vanilla. The quality of the peat is particularly interesting, as it's ashier than, say, Caol Ila or Lagavulin, reminding me much more of Kilchoman Machir Bay. If this is what Kilchoman's whisky is going to taste like after more than a decade under its belt, then I foresee great things for the distillery. In the meantime, I'm going to try to track down more bottlings of 1997 peated Bunnahabhain, because this is easily one of my favorite whiskies right now.
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