Given my affinity for Bunnahabhain, especially when it is aged in a sherry cask, I was really interested to try this whisky at a local tasting. The Maltman is a line of single cask whiskies put out by Meadowside Blending of Glasgow. This bottle was spirit distilled in December 2001, aged in an ex-sherry cask, then proofed down to 46% and bottled in August 2012.
Thanks to Dave McEldowney of PDXWhisky for letting me sample this one.
The Maltman Bunnahabhain 10 Year
Nose: very grassy, moderate oak, thin bubblegum sherry/fruit esters with a touch of vinegar, stewed apples, creamy floral notes (violet/lavender), malty Bunnahabhain core, toast, celery, sweet/savory underneath - after some time it improves with better sherry character and a biscuit-y note emerging. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes much maltier, with less prominent and more integrated sherry, the off-notes are somewhat reduced, plus some vanilla, whole wheat flour, a little salinity, and barbecue/wood char notes come out.
Taste: thin sherry with a vinegar edge over a thick slab of oak tannins giving it a bitter/sour character, solid layer of malt/grain underneath, floral/vegetal notes ride on top of everything, vegetal/celery notes at the back. After dilution, the malt becomes more prominent with some grain husk notes, the sherry and oak are toned down and integrate, with the wine becoming more vinous and reading like a red wine finish, but the vegetal/floral off-notes remain at the back, and it just seems a bit muddled.
Finish: bitterly oaky and vegetal/herbal, sherry/vinegar residue, green malt, unpleasant floral notes,
This is just didn't work for me. While I can tell that the spirit that went into the cask was quality stuff, something happened in those ten years that sent it careening off in the the wrong direction. The off-notes ruin what otherwise could have been an excellent whisky. Maybe it was a duff sherry cask? Maybe just bad luck? Either way it seems like the bottler decided to send this cask out into the world in the belief that it wasn't going to get any better. Unfortunately that means that a number of people have spent upwards of $100 on dud whisky. I also know that it's not just my palate, as there was nearly universal opprobrium at the tasting where I got this sample. It's enough to make me distrust Maltman in general, because the people choosing the casks either have a terrible sense of taste or are willing to try to flog bad whisky on unsuspecting customers for a lot of money.