Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Bunnahabhain, pronounced Bū-na-ha-venn and which is produced on the world-famous whisky producing island, Isle of Islay, took double gold for the second consecutive year for its 25-year old single malt at the annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The 12-year-old and 18-year-old both took gold. The whiskies were amongst 1407 spirits from 63 countries tasted by 34 judges representing the best palates in the industry.  The 25-year-old added another prestigious award to its repertoire with a trophy for the Best Islay Single Malt in the “21 years and over” category at Whisky Magazines’ 2013 World Whisky Awards held only weeks before.

The three whiskies in the Bunnahabhain range are all finished using the un-chillfiltered process which according to master distiller, Ian MacMillan, represents a return to the traditional way of whisky-making.

“The process of un-chillfiltering results in whisky in its purest form and it’s quite astounding how much depth of flavour, aroma, colour and character this traditional process imparts to the whisky.

“Bunnahabhain has always been famous for its gentle taste profile and superior quality but with the un-chillfiltered range it seems that the true nature of these whiskies is really coming to the fore,” MacMillan said.

Un-chillfiltering is the way whisky was made before chillfiltration was introduced in the 1970s primarily for cosmetic reasons. During chillfiltration the temperature of the whisky is dropped to 0°C before forcing it through filters which removes the fatty esters. This produces a “polished” whisky that offers consistency of colour and when bottled at 43% alcohol by volume does not become slightly hazy when chilled. But the trade-off is the loss of some of the flavour and character in the final whisky.

In the case of Bunnahabhain’s un-chillfiltered range, the whisky’s temperature is not reduced zero and the precious esters are allowed to pass undisturbed through the filters. This results in a full depth of flavour, aroma, colour and character. Although the higher alcohol strength at 46,3% keeps the whisky stable it does become slightly hazy when mixed with water or ice, a distinctive trait of un-chillfiltered whiskies.

Unlike most single malts from Islay, Bunnahabhain is crafted from unpeated malted barley and pure spring water untainted by the peaty moorlands. It is best to enjoy this warm and welcoming single malt neat or with a dash of water to really savour its wonderful combination of flavours. The 25-year-old holds sweet caramel dessert aromas with subtle oak and polished leather on the nose leading to sweet berries, cream and spiced-oak on the palate. The whisky has been matured in predominantly ex-bourbon casks with a small percentage of ex-sherry casks used. Due to the close proximity of the warehouses to the sea where the casks were stored during the 25 year maturation process, a noticeable sea influence is evident in the finish.

The whisky is available at most fine liquor outlets and retails for about R2 390.