Friday, December 19, 2014

Whisky Review: Master of Malt Bunnahabhain 23 Year/1989

This is a sample from the UK retailer Master of Malt, who have been doing their own bottlings for a number of years.

The whisky was distilled in 1989, then filled into an ex-bourbon cask and aged for 23 years, before being proofed down to 46% and bottled without chill filtration or coloring.

Master of Malt Bunnahabhain 23 Year/1989

Nose: very rich - gobs of honied malt, seashore/seaweed, a hint of bacon, herbal/grassy/hay, light floral perfume, soft green fruits (apple, pear, grape), light berries, light vanilla, orange creamsicle, nutty charred oak. After dilution, it becomes more integrated, but loses a lot of punch, with the creamy floral element dominating, bubblegum pops out, with salty seashore notes remaining in the background,

Taste: rather sweet with an almost sherried thickness up front, with clean malt slowly giving way to moderate oak, seaweed, fresh cut grass, floral perfume. After dilution, the sweetness up front becomes pure sugarcane, rounded out by a solid backbone of caramelized oak, which slips into fruit and bubblegum esters in the middle, then a big burst of creamy bittersweet herbal/floral flavors near the back

Finish: very herbal/grassy, floral perfume, fresh malt, a whisper of oak

This is an interesting example of a bourbon cask Bunnahabhain, getting significantly better with time in the glass. It reminds me a lot of the grassy/herbal Arran Bourbon Single Cask I had a while back, but inflected with the island character Bunnahabhain is known for.

If nothing else, I feel like this would have benefited from bottling at a slightly higher proof. While the nose had plenty of power, the palate felt weak and watery in comparison. Something in the 48-50% range probably would have given it a helpful boost.

Given its age, I'm guessing this was a rather inactive cask as the malt still tastes very fresh and the oak impact is quite minimal. If you like your whisky 'naked', this is probably a nice one, though I do wonder if it would have been better with a slightly more active cask as it feels a tad immature, with some edges left to round off. If I was tasting this blind, I would probably peg it at somewhere around ten to twelve years old, which makes the price that MoM wanted for it a bit hard to swallow. I'd stick to younger indies Bunnahabhains if you want a similar experience at a more tolerable price.

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