The Scottish island of Islay sits off of the west coast of the Scottish mainland. Home to distilleries and bird watchers, this island produces some of the most powerful and smoky of all the single malt scotch whiskies. Names like Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Bruichladdich are well-known to Islay scotch enthusiasts, but Bunnahabhain (pronounced bunna-ha-ven), located on the north end of the island, is still an undiscovered treasure.
Bunnahabhain’s whiskies are used as the base whisky for the well-regarded Black Bottle blended scotch whisky and are also popular for third-party releases. However, for most whisky drinkers, Bunnahabhain is still an unknown quantity.
While most Islay distilleries produce big, heavily peated whiskies that can have medicinal notes, Bunnahabhain’s house style is more restrained with little emphasis on peat. Bunnahabhain does do one heavily peated whisky though, a no age statement marquee called Bunnahabhain Toiteach. Toiteach (pronounced toch-ach) is not chill filtered, a process often used to keep spirits clear in cold temperatures, which can also have a negative effect on the overall flavor of the distillate.
Bunnahabhain Toiteach is a light gold color in the glass, and the nose offers a big hit of peat smoke with an underlying sweetness. The bouquet is almost reminiscent of what it would smell like if a toffee shop burned down. At 46% ABV, there is also a punch of alcohol evident in the nose, something that is reduced with the addition of some cool water.
On the palate, smoke and peat notes steamroll the tongue initially. A creosote note then emerges, followed by caramel, salt water, honey, cereal grains, raisins, and dried apricots, and then just a hint of white pepper. The sweeter flavors then melt off of the tongue again, as peat smoke, oak, and ocean mist finish off the flavor profile. The finish is long and complex, but at 46% ABV, this whisky is a bit hot on my palate. I found that opening up Bunnahabhain Toiteach with some cool water made for a more enjoyable dram.
Overall, Bunnahabhain Toiteach is an interesting whisky. It won’t be for everyone, but those who enjoy big, full-bodied, smoky single malt scotch whiskies should definitely taste Bunnahabhain Toiteach. I suggest pairing it with a good cigar or pipe at the end of the night or perhaps with a dark chocolate torte for dessert. The interplay between smoke and sweetness makes Bunnahabhain Toiteach a fascinating dram and one worth seeking out.
Disclosure: I received a sample of this product from Bunnahabhain for review. No other compensation from Bunnahabhain was received.