By Richard Thomas
“Bunnahabhain” is quite a mouthful, especially if you try to put a proper Gaelic accent on it. The word means “foot of the river,” and is the name of a village on the famed Scotch-making island of Islay. That village hosts a distillery, also named Bunnahabhain. Built in 1881, The Bunnahabhain is noted for being one of the milder Islay distilleries.
Despite this, it seems whenever Wemyss Malts gets their hands on a barrel of Bunnahabhain, they always give it a salty, sea dog’s name. Take this installment of their single cask line from the summer 2014 batch, “Oysters With Lemon Pearls.” Sounds very cold water estuary, doesn’t it? This single cask scotch selection from Bunnahabhain was distilled in 1991 (making it a 13 year old), and released at 46% abv in a batch of 265 bottles.
The liquid has the light gold coloring of mid-bodied white wine in the glass, a step above straw but not quite in the full gold range. The scent certainly lives up the lemon pearls part of the title, with a solid, zesty citrus note sharing the stage with hoary wood, cinnamon, and a whiff of smoke.
On the palate, the whisky has a thick texture. That mouthfeel might be where the oyster reference comes into play, because I certainly didn’t find anything else in the flavor that might account for it. Dry, old wood sits on the top of the tongue, followed by distinctly lemon zest, with cinnamon and cloves underneath, ending when an ashy note bubbles to the surface.
That leads to the finish, which starts with an aftertaste that is ashy and peppery in about equal measure, followed by a light lingering warmth.
Retail prices vary on this one. I’ve seen it listed for €99 and £98, two very different price points when you do the currency conversion, so much so they occupy two different price range categories on our website!