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It was announced earlier this year that Bunnahabhain was to undergo a bit of a restoration project. Expected to cost somewhere in the region of £11million, the work will see the construction of warehousing, a new visitor centre and a general facelift for the whole site, as well as the development of eight luxury holiday let cottages.
I paid the distillery a visit in September to see for myself what kind of condition it was in and while immediately apparent that it was cosmetically lacking in comparison to its island neighbours, and felt more like visiting Colditz Castle than Islay’s most northerly distillery, it was not without its charms. A proper visitor centre and tasting room would certainly be beneficial as standing around the small shop was not the best way to enjoy a post-tour tasting. Bear in mind, this comes after making it down arguably the worst access road to any distillery in Scotland. A road which is perhaps where money should really be getting spent if they want to make the journey more appealing to tourists. In any case, whilst work is definitely required, I was pleased to hear that internally, the distillery was to be largely left alone. The old wooden washbacks will remain, as will the 4 satisfyingly unpolished pot stills in the stillroom.
Of course any alteration to this equipment could unintentionally result in a change in the spirit and judging from the drams I sampled on the day, that would not do at all. The quality of the distilleries output was incredibly high across the whole range and they get bonus points for bottling at 46.3% as standard. After much deliberation, I eventually settled on a bottle of their Moine Port Pipe Finish, bottled for the 2017 Feis Ile – the Islay festival of malt and music which takes place each year in May.
Smell: Port (obviously), Berries / Forest Fruits, Oak, Furniture Polish, Fresh Baking and Raspberry Jam. Peat Smoke comes to the fore the longer it sits in the glass and a little water brings out some Creamy Malt and Vanilla.
Taste: Salted Caramel and Orange Cream, Chocolate, Cranberry and Blueberry, Touch of Pepper and, like the nose, the Smoke seems to assert itself over time.
Value for Money: It’s a bit of an extravagance at £95 direct from the distillery, but there is no doubting the exceptional quality of the dram in the bottle.
A well matured dram with a Port Pipe finish that adds a considerable amount to the overall experience – something which can’t be said for all finishes. Pricey yes, but you get a rather exceptional mix of Fruit and Smoke for your money. Wonderful.