I’m a massive fan of Islay whisky.
For me, the style puts all other whiskies quietly in the corner – you get such strong characterful expressions out of distilleries on the island, the kind of whisky that makes you sit up and pay attention – a provoker, challenging you to react.
For this reason, I’ve always found Bunnahabhain to be something of an odd-one-out with its softly-spoken, mellow, and (largely) unpeated style.
It’s not often I try their releases, as I rarely see them in the shops. We stopped by the distillery when we were on Islay but their gates were closed, no signs of life. All-in-all, this leaves it the least explored of the region’s distilleries for me.
Ever eager for the new experience, I was lucky enough to win their competition for a sample of their latest limited edition, the Ceòbanach (Scots-Gaelic for ‘smoky mist’). I was a big fan of the last peated Bunnahabhain I tried, the very smoky ‘Toiteach’, so I’m looking forward to trying this more lightly-peated expression.
Let’s see what this dark-horse of the Hebrides can do to provoke a reaction…
Nose: No peat reek here! I get straw and sweet cedar wood, play-doh, muscovadao sugar, dessert wine, apple strudel and nutmeg.
Palate: Crème brûlée, lemon-curd, pear drops, black pepper, and green apple skin. The peat is in-evidence, giving the fruit flavours more zest and tingle.
Finish: More spices, earthy peat and antique wood flavours, with a touch of chestnut at the end.
There is definitely a flavour at the core of all Bunnahabhain whisky that reminds me of crème brûlée. It really has something very desserty and sweet-shoppy about it.
The Ceòbanach is sweet, light, and zesty with a quiver of peat-tang and a lot of fragrant, fruity, woody notes. It’s got subtlety and complexity to it, building a lot of aroma around a lightly-smoked core.
Good work, chaps. Get some more expressions like this in your regular line-up and I’m sure they’ll go down an absolute storm.