Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain Tasting Notes

Posted: August 26, 2011 in Bunnahabhain, Scotch Whisky A-G

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1997 (13 year old) 46% – Sample at 57.4%

Bourbon Cask 8374/ Dist: 1997 Btl: Aug 2011/ Tasted: Aug 2011

A fairly phenolic and astringently coastal nose. Full of briny, gentle peat along with some barley and burnt wood. Seems a lot younger.

The palate is quite full and displays a good balance, opening with the smoky peat followed by some soft, pleasantly sweet barley fruit. Good length with an oily/ sooty finish.

With water (an approximation of what it will be like at 46%) the nose has become quite grassy and seaweedy, the rampant coastalness has now disappeared as has the oak. It’s still quite fleshy with the citrus the predominant theme. The palate has become rather sweet and almost confected. It’s also become a touch watery too. The intensity has definitely lessened and it’s only vaguely sooty now, but there is a pleasant sweetness to the peat.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 2002 (13 year old) 57.7%

Bourbon Hogshead 3050/ Dist: Oct 2002 Btl: July 2016/ Tasted: Sept 2016

The nose is earthy and coffee’d with charred oak, malt and liquorice. Lightly herbal with a touch of boiled sweets, barley and wood smoke. Edgy and natural with late hints of bbq meat and smoke.

The palate is earthy and meaty with hints of Bovril, liquorice and malt. Chunky and foursquare with a developing molasses note. Slightly feinty on the middle with a touch of rose petal marc and biting spice on the finish.

Water makes the nose simpler and lighter, but it does bring out some juicy citrus and barley. Unfortunately the palate is oily and cardboardy and has fallen apart to be honest. Short, hard, metallic finish.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1991 (18 year old) 53.7%

Sherry Cask 5448/ Dist: 1991 Btl: 2010/ Tasted: Aug 2010

A rich deep, treacle toffee nose with a touch of violet. Very dense with slabs of malt, liquorice and burnt toffee. There’s not much in the way of coastal character but the spirit fights back with some perfumed, almost gristy honeyed fruit. Remarkable complexity, the grape and the grain slug it out like a pair of heavyweight boxers!

Soft and gentle, again there’s no shortage of treacle toffee, liquorice and soft spices. The sherry cask is subtler and violet and floral notes abound. Still thick and chewy! A real malty mouthful. Nevertheless there is a pleasant freshness and a nip of salted nuts, which probably comes from the cask rather than a coastal environment. However the alcohol keeps it lively and there’s a suggestion of salted kippers on the finish.

With a drop of water it emphasises the cask, bringing out burnt, raisinated fruit, caramel and toast. It does the same on the palate, and scales down the complexity. So I would go for it neat.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1990 (19 year old) 51.8%

Sherry cask 970/ Dist: 1990 Btl: 2009/ Tasted: Apr 2009

Few malts can handle sherry as adroitly as Bunnahabhain in my opinion. It seems to cope it so well and is never over powered by it. The rich, leafy sherry begins but is quickly usurped by the gorgeous liquid honeyed orange and satsuma fruit. Showing quiet a bit of maturity with leafy-earthy-peat and coffee, along with barley and building coastal notes. An exemplary nose, with character and balance.

The palate isn’t bad either! Again the sherry begins the proceedings followed by earth, fruit, a touch of hessian, coffee and wood tannins. Mature honey coated orange fruit takes over with a fluid liquid intensity. The alcohol bites nicely and balances the rich darkness of the fruit and earthy peat.

Can that nose get any better? Well add a drop of water and it overflows with buckets of yummy, coffee laced fruit, which takes on an almost tropical character. Still dripping in honey and the coastal edge keeps it keen. On the palate it is still rich and luxurious with the nutty sherry oak more prevalent.

Bunnahabhain 1989 (24 year old) 45.8%

Bourbon Cask 5753/ Dist: 1989 Btl: Oct 2013/ Tasted: Nov 2013

A superbly dense and malty nose with lightly perfumed tangerine and orange. Very rich with mature honey, granulated sugar and dusty/ musky violet notes. Lovely maturity with plenty of sawdusty oak. Not overly coastal and more Spey-like in character with late notes of gorse, hyacinth, camphor, pine resin, bark and brittle toffee. Elegant, evocative and very impressive.

The palate is gentle and mature, opening with the sawdusty oak, barley, tangerine, apricot and herbal honey. There is just an intimation of earthy-peat. Like the nose its not very coastal but it has some lovely spicy moments on the middle along with some cleansing citrus notes, which have replaced the salt that you would normally have expected. Long with hints of marzipan, toffee and a little perfumed/ dusty violet on the finish.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1990 (24 year old?) 56.8%

Bourbon cask 3515 Tasted: May 2014/ Dist: 1990 Btl: 2014

Wonderfully fresh and mature aromas with lemon cough sweets, barley, lightly sawdusty oak, clotted cream and a touch of smoke. The creamy oak really develops and some dark grainy coffee’d tannins appear along with a light malty note.

The palate is bold and mouth-filling, opening with some sweet barley, creamy oak, a touch of mature honey and sawdust. Building citrus and brine on the middle. Lovely intensity with hints of grass and lemon rind in the finish. Quite dry, leaving the palate encrusted with sea salt.

Dilution makes the nose gorgeously aromatic, dusty and mature. Quite Spey-like with liquid Orange and luscious honey. The butter oak is relegated to the background. The palate is still quite oaked with more emphasis on the slightly herbal honey. A little simpler but still very maritime. Good length with a barley, light malt and smoked meat finish. A superb cask!

Bunnahabhain 1989 (27 year old) 44.4%

Bourbon Cask 5835/ Dist: 1989 Btl: 2012/ Tasted: July 2012

Quite an earthy nose with hints herbs and bog myrtle. Quite rich and barley sweet. With time some mature rose petal marc-like notes appear along with a thin thread of peat. For all it’s richness it’s quite delicate, fresh and elegant.

The palate is lightly oiled and earthy with hints of fish and brine. The tannins build on the middle along with some oily apricot, white fruit, white liquorice and gentle spice. Quite piquant on the middle with some herbal notes. The tannins continue through to the end and do add a bit of bitterness.

With water the nose becomes more coastal and the icing sugar coated. Hints of clove studded light orange appears now. The palate has become spicier and honey sweetened now. Less tannic and the wood has added some gorgeous coffee/ toffee notes. Very gentle with some icing sugar, sweet malt and herbs. Good length with the sweetness now balancing the bitterness from the oak.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1976 (32 year old) 49.4%

Refill Sherry 6223/ Dist: 1976 Btl: 2008/ Tasted: Oct 2008

A wonderfully mature nose of coastal and refill sherry aromas. Luxuriously decadent with rich coffee and mature honey and hints of light menthol and bog myrtle. Over time some velvety vanilla oakaromas insinuate themselves with a lovely butter/ toffee nuance. Wonderfully inviting and an ideal after dinner dram.

The palate opens with a wave of mature coastal fruits whichare wonderfully rich and mouth filling. Thereare plenty of wood notes – coffee and vanilla and walnuts, all balanced by a wonderfully salty edge. Lovely and mellow it finishes with a return of the buttery oak. Personally I’d drink it neat as water softens it a bit too much and the oak overwhelms the mature fruit a bit, as well as brining out a faintly astringent (but not unpleasant) note on the nose.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1974 (35 year old) 44.3%

Bourbon cask 7111/ Dist: 1974 Btl: 2009/ Tasted: Nov 2009

The displays a huge amount of oak, which frankly mauls the spirit. Butter coated white peach, pear and caramel. It’s very luscious with some orange fruit and coastal salinity attempting to force a way through. The palate opens with salted, sweet white fruit, greengage, heather and a touch of sugar water. A light peat smoke note drifts in before the combination of oak and alcohol crush the finish leaving a salty-bitter after taste. Somewhat unbalanced to be honest.

Dewar Rattray Bunnahabhain 1974 (37 year old) 43%

Bourbon cask 13174/ Dist: 1977 Btl: Feb 2012/ Tasted: Feb 2012

A seriously tropical (kiwi, greengage, banana, orange) and gristy nose with an abundance of sweet, luscious honey and beautifully fragranced oak. There’s so much tropical fruit that one would be forgiven for thinking that you were nosing anArran. Just likeArranthere is not a huge amount of coastal character but the depth is frightening to say the least. With time the lightly perfumed oils emerge as does a hint of light, Guatemalan coffee. Is this really 37 years old? The only real give away is a slight maturity to the oak and honey aromas.

Juicy and joyously tropical on the palate, a mouth watering array of apricot, papaya and citrus. Gentle oils roll across the tongue tinged with a touch of Guatemalan coffee. Oooh, now the wood spices kick in and the oils intensify towards the middle. And did I mention the spices? Oh my god! Delightful and gentle, throwing up cinnamon dust and plenty of demarara sugar, light toasted nuts and some herbal nuances. Stunning length with hints of loam and old heather. Stunning, majestic and seriously good!


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