So much whisky, so little time | Singapore | Tasting Notes

Bunnahabhain 40yo 1973 ‘The Birthday Dram’ for The Whiskyman 48.5%

There is good Taiwanese whisky, there is good Japanese, Indian, Bourbon etc… But I believe that only countries with climates that are mild and temperate all year round can produce truly exceptional whiskies of a complexity only long aging can bequeath. You might find such examples from the whiskies of Ireland, Scotland, maybe from some micro-climates in Europe.

Why do I think this? Well we know spirit matures in the barrel in 3 ways – there is subtractive, extractive and interactive maturation. In the first 2 wood plays a prominent role: Undesirable elements in newmake is taken up by the wood, and desirable compounds are added to the wood. Interactive maturation however involves time and air; Over long periods, the whisky oxidizes and evaporates, interacting with itself in a chemical reaction measured in decades.

Because of the hot summers and cold winters in Japan, Kentucky, and especially India, their whisky ages quickly primarily through the first 2 methods of subtractive and extractive maturation via the oak. Therefore while the whisky is ready in just a few years, there is a very real danger of over-oaking if left for much longer. A whisky matured in such a climate will be wood-driven, and must require very good oak.

On the other hand, Scotland is cool damp and wet almost all year round, to the infinite chagrin of a great many Scots but to the great benefit of their whisky. To be mature, a Scotch whisky requires maybe 10 years, and then time is their friend, for it is not uncommon for Scotch to be at its peak at 30 years. That means 30 years of interactive aging, 30 years of addition chemical development intrinsic to the whisky itself, though the effect of the wood on the whisky is correspondingly slowed. Of course that does not mean to say all long aged whisky is good whisky, as many other variables come into play, but when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place just so, it can be mind numbingly magnificent.

Bunnahabhain birthdaydram


Also thanks Ben.


Nose Nose: Hugely thick with crusted wax and resinous oil. Black Kiwi on boot leather and brasso. Hints of glass, spilt chinese ink, some metal, some salt and also something very balmy and green-laced about this nose, some wind blasted highland herb growing out of a crevice above a quiet bay. This is fantastic old stuff.

Taste  Palate: Does not disappoint, big and unctuous, everything the nose smelt, the tongue enjoys. The green-ness even comes together on the tongue in a nice focused sour tang. More salt too, salted honey on greengages. Disquietingly moving .

Finish  Finish: Looong. Bit sour, bit waxy, still aromatic, sour plums.


I can’t tell but I suspect this is a ‘natural’ cask, not sherry, or maybe a refill, and I love it. Sublime unhindered old spirit just shines out from the glass as much a beacon as a reminder.


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This entry was posted on August 19, 2015 by in Bunnahabhain and tagged .
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