A little while ago a few whisky fanatics I’ve known for years had one of their decadent tastings. Contrary to previous ones which were “40%, and bottled in the sixties” and stuff like that, this one was a bit more manageable, being themed around hand-filled whiskies from the distilleries in Scotland.
Somehow I emailed them back telling them I didn’t have any hand-filleds, which is silly. I happen to have on of these two (the other one was almost, and now completeley, empty) and two 20cls from Balvenie. Anyway, I didn’t go to the tasting.
Now, I found I really had to start finishing the first of the two Bunnahabhains, and open the second one since I wanted to do a head-to-head between them. I picked them up when I was at the distillery last April, but these hand-filleds were already in the shop, filled by the girl who took us around the place.
Of course, we were spoiled for choice at Bunnahabhain. There was another third hand-filled and a distillery only bottling, which we bought and split between the four of us. I picked up these two since I loved the idea of doing a head-to-head, and I love the Fino and Manzanilla cask maturations, in general. Also, we tried them in Warehouse 9 and I loved them.
Bunnahabhain 12yo, #331, Manzanilla, 51.3%
Big on the sherry, with a lot of sweetness and a lot of coastal salinity. Dried mango and papaya. Lots of oak, and some moldy notes like mushrooms. Old walnuts, too.
The palate is a lot drier than I expected, with quite some oaky and chili heat. The sweetness it pushed back a little bit, but the dried fruits are still there. There’s maybe some apricot on top of the mango and papaya. The moldy notes are present, but slightly contained because of the alcohol.
This is an interesting finish. The moldy notes of mushroom and walnut are peaking here, with the dried fruit sweetness as a backdrop. Quite the intense finish, in a very good way.
Bunnahabhain 12yo, #332, Manzanilla, 52.4%
There’s a lot of sherry, but mainly by association. Those funky, mushroom, moldy casks and other fungal notes are associated with sherry casks in my book. It reminds me of the old sherry scent in the cave at Michel Couvreur’s. Dried fruit too, dates and papaya. Quite heavy.
Very dry, with a lot of oak. There’s some peppery heat too, and some salinity. Rather coastal too, with hints of marram grass and brine. A hint of bitterness with some walnuts, fruit stones.
The finish is rather gentle compared to the palate, and not overly long. There’s a lot of the funky notes from the nose, but most other notes are pushed back.
It’s quite interesting to see these two very similar whiskies who are yet so different. The core of the whisky is the same distillate, and the same maturation conditions. However, the focus on the fruit in the first whisky and the focus on the nutty and moldy notes is what makes them interesting.
I do like those moldy/walnut/mushroom notes. However, I think the addition of the fruitiness in Cask #331 gives the whisky more depth, and therefore it makes it a bit more interesting. And by ‘a bit more interesting’ I mean this is a cracking dram. They do know how to make an awesome dram, on the sound of Islay shores.