Bunnahabhain releases oldest whisky; announces renovation
Islay distillery Bunnahabhain has released its oldest Scotch whisky to date – a 46-year-old expression – at the same time as revealing plans for an £11 million renovation.
Bunnahabhain Eich Bhana Lìr – meaning the great waves of the god Lìr – was distilled in 1969 and spent its entire maturation period in second-fill oloroso Sherry butts in Bunnahabhain’s warehouse number four.
Bottled at 41.8% abv, the expression is said to have a flavour of beeswax, candied orange, roasted nuts and Manuka honey. Just 198 bottles have been released at an RRP of £5,000.
Bunnahabhain, owned by South African drinks group Distell, has also unveiled a further three limited edition whiskies, which will launch in the coming months.
The Bunnahabhain 2003 Pedro Ximénez Finish, which is set to launch in September this year, has been matured in second-fill Sherry casks and then a further three years in first-fill PX butts.
Bottled at 54.8% abv, the whisky is priced £85.00. It has an availability of 5,000 bottles.
The Bunnahabhain 1980 Vintage Canasta Cask Finish is a 36-year-old limited edition whisky set to launch in August. The expression spent most of its maturation period in oloroso Sherry casks, and spent “a few months” in Canasta Sherry casks – which previously contained a mix of PX and oloroso Sherries.
The whisky is bottled at 49.5% abv and is priced £1,800. A total of 1,200 bottles will be available.
Finally, the Bunnahabhain 2004 Moine Brandy Finish, which will launch in September this year, is a 13-year-old peated whisky with 40ppm. The expression has been matured in Sherry casks, and then finished in French brandy casks for three years.
It has been bottled at 55.7% abv and is priced £80.
At an event in London last night, Derek Scott, general manager for Distell’s malt whisky portfolio, also revealed that Bunnahabhain Distillery will undergo an £11m renovation over the next three years, admitting that historically the site has been “under invested in”.
“We are the scruffy site on Islay – I don’t think that’s an unfair statement,” he said. “Our goal is the improve the infrastructure.”
He added that the malts team put forward a five-year investment plan for Bunnahabhain to Distell’s executive team, but the timescale was reduced to three years.
Plans include the demolition of some buildings at the back of the distillery, the build of new warehouses in close proximity to the sea, and enhanced visitor facilities. Production capacity will not be increased under the renovation.
“We don’t have a problem with capacity,” said Scott. “If we needed to, we could divert whisky away from the blends. Our problem is with aged whisky – our predecessors didn’t keep enough back.
“We are putting up a big investment and we want to create an experience for people. We want people to come a spend time with us. It will be quite dramatic – it’s an exciting time for us as a business.”
Andrew Brown, distillery manager at Bunnahabhain, hinted that more limited editions could be released to celebrate the completion of the distillery’s renovation.