For this burst, we shall start with a suitable palate acclimatiser.
Bunnahabhain 2007/2018 10yo DL Provenance cask #12467 [377 bts] 46% WB0
- C: With a firm distillate base and fair maturation, it’s a decent enough Bunna to set one’s sights.
Scores 83 points
And now for the Bunnahabhain Octave Project, courtesy of the excellent A.D. Rattray independent bottlers.
A.D. Rattray: ‘With The Octave Project, we composed a limited batch of new whiskies of distinction for whisky-lovers to enjoy’.
‘The arrangement involved taking a cask of whisky from a single distillery, and dividing it between four different Octave casks. Specially commissioned from the coopers for our Project, each Octave used oak staves taken from a larger cask that had previously contained PX Sherry, Oloroso Sherry, Rioja or Rum. One portion of whisky from the original cask was retained to enable a point of comparison’.
‘As an Octave holds only 50 litres of whisky, it amplifies wood-to-spirit interaction in a short burst of second wood maturation. The changing dynamics and developing flavour notes were carefully monitored over time and at five months, we judged the wood finish to be harmonious and ready. We bottled the Octaves’.
Bunnahabhain 2002 14yo AD Rattray bourbon cask #3058 57.1%
We start with the base whisky, bourbon-matured for 14 years.
- N,T&F: A yeasty, bready, lemon-y malt, stylistically like James Eadie’s Trade Mark X [WB].
- C: This is a moderately decent whisky with a relatively plain character that would certainly suit finishing experiments.
Scores 84 points
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 Rum cask finish 55.4%
- C: With only five months in an octave cask, the composition has certainly changed. It’s now beefier than the base malt, largely offering a salty-sweet raisin-y malt with a little more ‘funk’ & edge. Equal certainly to the original cask.
Scores 84 points
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 Rioja cask finish 55.9%
- C: Showing off some fine yeasty/fruity chocolate notes, this makes me think I could eventually get to like wine finishes. There is however a butyric issue on the finish.
Scores 82 points
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 PX cask finish 55.1% WB0
- C: There’s a little more buttery funk compared to the base malt, but it’s still nothing more than a straight-ahead number.
Scores 83 points
Bunnahabhain 2002 15yo AD Rattray cask #3058 Oloroso cask finish 55.1%
- C: Though nuttier and more fruity than the base expression, the underlying yeastiness of the base malt is becoming a little waring.
Scores 83 points
With the exception of the rum cask perhaps, there’s much of a muchness to all of these finishes. Despite all these experiments, in terms of balance & composition, it’s the bourbon base expression that still comes across best – as Nick White said at the start. It’s well worth trying these things and presenting them to the market I say, and it goes to show how tricky & precarious the art of finishing is.
Furthermore, A.D. Rattray have done this experiment with other distillery casks from Arran & Pulteney, with 3cl tasting packs available to try [link]. Ideally, you might want to try all the packs together, to gain more of an understanding about the effect of one type of finish on a number of different single malts.
More independent action:
Bunnahabhain 2001/2018 16yo Elixir SMoS cask #1254 [602 bts] 53.4% WB88
- N: With a fruity<creamy-depth, this appears plenty older than 16.
- T: Starting off a little congested, it takes a while to chew through it. Appears more youthful on the palate than the nose.
- F: Rough & tumble finish.
- C: More typically an old-style Bunna [and Ben Nevis-esque for that matter], it’s certainly a loveable rogue.
Scores 85 points
Bunnahabhain 1987 28yo BBR Exceptional Casks #2484 [btl #72/185] 49.7% WB88
- N: Fruity!
- T: Fruity & woody. Again, it’s a little congested, but adding water helps it a little.
- F: Dusty/ashy fruity finish.
- C: To my palate it’s a bit ‘over’, but still.
Scores 86 points
Bunnahabhain 27yo  Elixir SMoS [1200 bts] 48.4% WB88.50
As it was told to me, this is a vetting of 5 vintage casks consisting of 2x 1989, 2×1990 and 1x 1990 – married together for 6 weeks.
- N: We have all the fruits!
- T: Wow, this kicks on with a fruity spongey depth and a seasoned saltiness.
- F: A malty >putty >salty chew, a touch dry & winey.
- C: It’s been some time coming, but if you persevere with Bunna, you will eventually find a gem or two.
Scores 90 points
Bunnahabhain 43yo  Elixir SMoS Director’s Special [341 bts] 41.4% WB89.75
- N: A detergent-fresh, floral & fruity number with plenty of deeper complexities to sort through.
- T: With a narrow/delicate arrival, water helps it chug along – after all, it is an old boy.
- F: A touch of favourable, sulphur-y sherry tones to finish. Bunna were well known for their sulphured casks during the 80’s, though this would have been aged distillate from the early 1970’s at least – and this isn’t that kind of sulphur anyhows.
- C: A very decent Bunna given the age, though the previous fresher 27yo has more in the balance.
Scores 88 points