Well-aged Bunnahabhain can really shine in refill wood, bringing out tropical fruits, but on the other hand some of the best expressions I’ve had were first-fill sherry casks. Think Auld Acquaintance or the 1967 Private Stock.
A few days ago The Whisky Exchange presented a 32 year old Bunnahabhain 1990, an official single cask bottling exclusive to them. Bunnahabhain rarely releases retailer-exclusive bottlings, especially at this age. It is an Oloroso sherry butt selected by master distiller emeritus Brendan McCarron and TWE’s Dawn Davies MW.
Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1990 – Single Cask (54,8%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 2023, Oloroso sherry butt #7815, 537 btl.)
Nose: oh my. A lot of classic sherry markers, like plums, rum & raisins, tobacco leaves and hazelnuts in dark chocolate. Orange peels and cold brew coffee. Then also brighter notes of soaked morello cherries, raspberry / blackberry jam and leather polish. Last but not least: a heady layer of eucalyptus, sho polish and subtle balsamic notes, which lifts the entire nose. This is pretty perfect.
Mouth: a rich and very heavy style of sherry, which doesn’t become bloated. Plenty of prunes, blackberries and sour berries. Dark chocolate and cigar leaves. Hints of cedar wood and walnut cake, with a drop of cough syrup. Then it turns towards black tea, liquorice and coffee. Old-style in a way.
Finish: long but not extremely so, with walnuts, dried fruits, more tea and leathery dryness.
This is a clean and very wide sherry profile. A true sherry bomb which leaves just a little space for the underlying Islay character. Especially the sour and heady notes add elegance and make this an exceptional dram. A modern Auld Acquaintance if you like. We had some of these casks ten years ago so we were already aware of the quality. Extra ageing made this whisky more elegant (but also catapulted the price of course). Exclusively available from The Whisky Exchange.