The gentle taste of Bunnahabhain’s connoisseur range of Islay single malts is very much to South Africa’s liking, says Lucindi Branfield, marketing manager of this specialist range in South Africa.
“It has developed something of a cult following amongst aficionados, partially because of its relative rarity but also for its singular flavour. Its taste profile is quite unlike the peaty, smoky single malts traditionally associated with Islay. That’s because Bunnahabhain is the only producer of single malts on the island to use a natural spring water source and unpeated barley in the production of its whiskies. It’s untainted by Islay’s peaty moors and so, is lighter on the palate.”
Something else that marks Bunnahabhain as distinctive, she says, is that it is un-chillfiltered. “This marks a return to a very traditional technique and the reason is that it expresses the whisky in its purest form with a full depth of colour, aroma and flavour – as natural as when it comes out of the casks.”
Despite being a relative newcomer to the highly contested South African single malt market, the range is fast gaining ground, she says. “Stocks are limited but available from strategically identified specialist outlets catering to single malt enthusiasts. Any news of the range’s awards always heightens interest in this market.”
Recent awards include:
– Master status at the 2015 Global Scotch Whisky Masters in the UK for its 18 and 25-year-old expressions
– Gold medal and best-in-class rating for Bunnahabhain 25-year-old at the 2015 International Spirits Challenge (ISC)
– Double gold medal for Bunnahabhain 25-year-old at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
– Best Islay Single Malt (21 years and over) for Bunnahabhain 25-year-old at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards. Bunnahabhain 18-year-old took the title of Best Islay Single Malt (13 to 20 years) at the same competition.
Bunnahabhain, founded in 1881, is pronounced Bu-na-ha-venn and means mouth of the river in Scots Gaelic, referring to the Margadale River that flows close by.
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 remove the fatty esters. This produces a “polished” whisky that offers consistency of colour and, when bottled at 43% alcohol by volume, does not become hazy when chilled. But the trade-off is the absence of some of the flavour and character in the final whisky.
The price of Bunnahabhain ranges from R580 to R900 to R2 600 for its 12-, 18- and 25-year-old whiskies respectively.