The latest release from Bunnahabhain see’s one of the oldest whisky expressions I’ve ever personally had the pleasure of experiencing; (meaning “The great waves of the God Lìr), itself the oldest expression launched by the brand.

It’s said that during the winter months, the distillery warehouses wich are situated close to the sea on the north‐eastern coast of Islay, are often enveloped by the raging seas. Bunnahabhain 46 year is named after the God Lìr, the powerful ruler of the sea in Gaelic mythology, who used his great white waves to wash ashore his most precious gifts.

Pretty cool eh?

I dive in (pun intended) to the history of Bunnahabhain to set the scene before sitting down with a dram of their newest dram.

In 1879, the Islay Distillery Company was set up by William Robertson, James Ford, James Watson Greenlees and John Marshall to construct a new distillery on the Sound of Islay. The Bunnahabhain Distillery (pronounce Boon-a-havn) was built 1881 and lies on the north–eastern tip of Islay. It officially opened in 1882 and the following year full production began. In 1887 it merged with William Grant and Co. to form Highland Distillers, yet in 1930, the decision was taken to close as the recession deepened and unemployment accelerated within all the industries but seven years later, the distillery re-opened.

To contribute to expansion, a second pair of stills were added in 1963 to produce whisky for blending purposes. The distillery was unfortunately mothballed from 1982 until 1984, and sold to Burn Stewart Distillers in 2003.

Bunnahabhain Range

Bunnahabhain is rather unique in that it is milder than most Islay whiskies. This is due to the water they use that rises through limestone and is transported by pipeline to the distillery. This stops it picking up any peat flavours on the way. The fine malted barley is never heavily peated either, and the sea facing warehouses provide the perfect environment for maturing.

So despite a rather inconsistent history, its uniqueness has shone through, and below I give to you my tasting notes on its core range, and the new 46 year –

Bunnahabhain 12yr – 46.3%

Launched in 1979, gentle smoke on the nose, with a deep, bold fresh forest floor aroma coming through. Light on the palate with slow hints of nuts and fruit that leads to a sweet finish.

Bunnahabhain 18yr – 46.3%

Launched in 2006, burnt smoke on the nose, with a deep honey bacon aroma. Smooth on the palate with a sense of nut and spice with a dry finish.

Bunnahabhain 25yr – 46.3%

Launched in 2006, on the nose, it’s light with some caramel tones and sea salt. Very light as it hits the palate with lots of malt and sweetness mixing well for a long finish.

Bunnahabhain 46 year “Eich Bhana Lìr” – 41.8%

Light green apple on the nose with notes of honey heather and dry orange peel. A burst of light berry once onto the palate, with hints of lemon, dry walnut and leather which leads to a fresh, long finish of bold bursts.

The 25 year is a personal highlight, one worthy of a special occasion or indeed a fitting end to a meal, but the 46 year is something special, and the bottle itself will have your fellow whisky evangelists talking.


© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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