About this SPIRIT
Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay
Bunnahabhain was established in 1881 on Islay. Pronounced 'Boo-na-ha-ven' and meaning 'mouth of the river', Bunnahabhain is accessible through 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 has changed little. Bunnahabhain is sometimes referred to as "the Islay whisky without the Islay character” because it is less peaty than other Islay malts. Its light color (for an Islay) is attributable to the spring water being drawn before it runs "over and through" the well-known Islay peat bogs. This quality is further enhanced by the distillery taking only a narrow cut from the second distillation.
The distinctive oiliness of the Bunnahabhain malt is due to the short-necked stills used here. Bunnahabhain is sweeter than the other Islays, with a smooth initial palate and long full finish. In most instances, Bunnahabhain single malt is made of malted barley that has been dried using a fuel source other than peat not to impart any smoky, medicinal, iodine-like flavors. 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.
Now owned by CVH Spirits, Bunnahabhain has released a range of finishes in recent years, including Palo Cortado, Manzanilla, and PX finishes, and whisky that has been finished in ex-Burgundy barrels.
(Adapted from the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024)
The whisky region of Islay (pronounced eye-la) is arguably the most important 200 or so square miles in the whisky world. On the face of it Islay just another island of the Inner Hebrides. It lies in Argyll just to the west of Jura and around 25 miles north of the Irish coast, which can be seen on a clear day.
The island's fame as far as whisky goes is due to the 8 distilleries currently in production and the vast tracts of peat that cover most of the island's surface. The whisky distilleries are: Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman (this is the newest distillery on the island which started producing spirit in 2005), Lagavulinand Laphroaig.
The 8 distilleries with whisky for sale can be divided up, depending on the amount of peat used. The `big 3' are Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig who all produce powerful smoke laden whiskies. The new malt produced by Kilchoman is also very powerful indeed.
Occupying the middle ground are Bowmore and Caol Ila. The whiskies produced at Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain are in peat terms at least, the lightest.
There were more distilleries in the past: Port Ellen closed in 1983 while the Lochindaal at Port Charlotte closed in1929. The buildings at Port Ellen are however still in use, it is here that malted barley for the island's distilleries is produced.