Bunnahabhain Distillery,Islay

Bunnahabhain is is an Islay distillery that was established in 1881. Pronounced 'Boo-na-ha-ven' and meaning 'mouth of the river', Bunnahabhain is accessible by way of a winding lane off the main road to Port Askaig. Its distillery is set around a courtyard in a style that resembles a Bordeaux château. Despite expansion in 1963 the distillery is little changed. Bunnahabhain is sometimes referred to as "the Islay whisky without the Islay character." Due to it being less peaty than other Islay malts, its light colour (for an Islay) is attributable to the fact that the spring water is drawn before it runs "over and through" the well-known Islay malt. This quality is further enhanced by the distillery practice of taking only a very narrow cut from the second distillation.

The distinctive oiliness of the Bunnahabhain malt is due to the short-necked stills utilised. Bunnahabhain is described as being sweeter than the other Islays, with a smooth initial palate and long full finish. Lighter than the Islay style, with a full round flavour. In most instances, Bunnahabhain Single Malt is made of malted barley that has been dried using a fuel source other than peat so as not to impart any smoky, medicinal, iodine-like flavours. On occasion, Bunnahabhain produces batches of a spirit made of barley that has been imbued with the pungent (some would say acrid) smell of peat-smoke as it was drying.

Each sample had come from a differently-treated batch of spirit, one was un-peated, another had been lightly-peated and the last one heavilypeated. It takes some time to work through the unglamorous but necessary logistics of bottling a cask of Scotch whisky and now, finally, the three drams we tasted last winter have, in our view, led to a stimulating comparison

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