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Bunnahabhain

Treasurer's Selection Bunnahabhain 1989, 25 years old (70cl 47%)

€225.68 $270.18 £200.00

Earth

Tobacco, leather, fungus, rubber, light peat

Single malt Scotch whisky has generated tasting notes varied enough to put the world of wine to shame. Entire books have been published that try to do nothing but describe the taste of whiskies. This huge variation of flavour means that, if you try and condense the entire project of tasting notes to just 10 possible flavours, you will inevitably have to make some compromises. As a result, the set of flavours we have encompassed under the term “Earth” include virtually anything that is savoury or unusual, although they may not have much in common with one another. It is therefore more open to interpretation than our other flavour guides.

By “Earth” we seek to include under one umbrella all the flavours produced by light - not excessive - peat smoke: the aroma of pipe tobacco or cigar smoke, the scent of freshly dug soil, the dry smoke of a hearth fired by wood or inland peat; it may also include the distinctively savoury notes of rubber, leather or fungus that inexplicably make their way into some of the more complex single malts.

For example, peat is present in some classic favourites like Dalwhinnie or Highland Park in such small quantities that it is not at first recognisable as the same flavour that marks the peat beasts of Islay. Many of the older Lowland malts contained a thin streak of peat smoke - it remains to a certain extent in Glenkinchie, while those who are familiar with Rosebank or Littlemill will recognise a rubbery or glue-like characteristic. A medium peating level, used in many Highland or Campbeltown malts, may result in a very distinctively earthy flavour when it is lacking the saltiness that marks those of Islay: Ardmore or Blair Athol, for example, are still a good way removed from Laphroaig or Ardbeg, despite their relatively high PPM, simply because their peat source is dry and inland.

The savoury characteristic of earthy flavours goes well with the leathery or grassy side of certain cigars: the dryness may go well with a Bolivar or a Punch, while those whiskies balanced with a little sweetness might pair well with Montecristo.

Chocolate

Cocoa, cream, coffee beans

“Scotch and Chocolate” is the name of an instrumental piece from the American bluegrass band Nickel Creek. Bluegrass musicians generally know a thing or two about whisky, and right enough, the two are natural pairings (that goes both for Scotch and chocolate and for whisky and bluegrass!) - not least because many Scotch whiskies themselves have flavours that can be compared to chocolate, whether it be the creaminess of milk chocolate or the richness and coffee-bean-like bitterness of dark chocolate.

Chocolatey flavours are often the result of sherry-cask maturation, much like dried fruit - indeed, the two flavours often go together, as with the classic Macallans or Glendronachs. In particular, younger whiskies - especially blends - containing a proportion of sherry-matured malt often have an overtly sweet milk-chocolate character; older malts often become richer and more bitter, with dark chocolate or coffee notes. Dalmore is an excellent example of the latter, while a lighter style is key to the appeal of the underrated islander Tobermory.

The rich and heavy sweet flavours encapsulated by this flavour profile are often the result of the charring of oak casks, which produces compounds known as lactones (so named because of their similarity, in terms of flavour, to dairy products). It is therefore entirely consistent that the creamy, buttery characteristics of this flavour are often associated with bourbon: the new wood which gives bourbon its particular character provides strong chocolatey flavours, represented in Scotland by Glen Garioch Virgin Oak or Auchentoshan Virgin Oak; Talisker Storm is another good example, where freshly-charred rejuvenated casks provide a buttery, bourbon-like mouthfeel missing from the refill-cask-matured 10-year-old.

Chocolatey flavours are an obvious complement to the more dairy-like or milky elements of certain cigar styles - Rafael Gonzales or Hoyo de Monterrey would be good pairings, for example.

View more on this falvour here 

Wood

Sherry casks, cedar, mahogany, cigar box

Whisky, by definition, is a grain spirit aged in oak casks - and it is the influence of this wood that produces they greatest variation of flavour. Different species of oak result in different flavours, while the previous contents of the cask has a major impact on the style of the resulting Scotch. A whisky may spend anything from three years to thirty years in wood - in some extreme cases even longer than that. Yet there are only certain cases where the resulting spirit can be said to ‘taste of wood’.

The most obvious example is when the whisky has been aged for an exceptionally long time. Conventional whisky wisdom claims that any period of ageing beyond about 25 years is wasted or even detrimental, because the spirit begins to taste more like the wood it is stored in than anything else. As a result, subtleties of flavour built up over years of maturation will be lost as the wood takes over. A certain amount of woody flavours may be desirable, however, not least because it implies that a whisky has spent a considerable amount of time ageing and has likely reached the peak of its complexity. For this reason, single malts over 25 years of age are relatively scarce (not to mention expensive), but often in high demand.

The wood of the cask imparts tannins to the spirit inside: tannins are a compound that produce a dry or astringent flavour, as found in red wine, unripened fruit, black tea…and heavily oak-influenced whisky. This means the flavours in question may be found in whisky aged in wine-influenced casks, such as those which have previously held sherry, port or red wine, as opposed to bourbon; therefore it is not always necessary for a whisky to have been aged for a very long time in order for woody flavours to be apparent. Notes of mahogany, cigar box cedar-wood or varnish are relatively common among the more savoury styles of single malt, such as complex Speysides or some Islay whiskies.

Wood is also a common flavour in many cigars, which can be expected to pair well with a woody whisky: Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo are both excellent examples, while Fonseca and Diplomaticos are good choices among the lesser known brands.

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Region: Islay
Age: 25 year old
Distilled: 1989
Bottled: October 2014
Cask number: 5802
Limited to 228 bottles
UnChill-Filtered...read more

Product Info

Region: Islay
Age: 25 year old
Distilled: 1989
Bottled: October 2014
Cask number: 5802
Limited to 228 bottles
UnChill-Filtered Treasurer Selection

From our "Treasurer's Selection" of single cask, cask-strength malts.
An enigma of a malt. Most Bunnahabhain expressions are unpeated, and on the nose you would be forgiven for expecting this one to be the same: there is hardly a trace of smoke to be found, just creaking old oak and heavy cellar mould. True, there is the unmistakable waxy scent of a Barbour jacket left beside the fire, of cold ashes left in the hearth…but nothing to suggest the sudden arrival of thick, earthy peat that appears out of nowhere on the palate. It weighs heavy on your tongue with dark chocolate orange, ancient oloroso, and a slight sea salt tang; but give it time and fresh wild flowers will begin to emerge, alongside juicy apricot, in the background. That ghostly smoke thins to a whiff on the finish, as the oak takes over once again.

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Robert Graham uses reputable courier services and we ship worldwide. Within the UK we aim to deliver within 2 working days. International delivery times vary depending on destination. After your purchase has been processed, you will receive an email notification with your delivery tracking number.

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Note: Regrettably we cannot ship cigars or any other tobacco products to the USA and Canada.

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