Bunnahabhain Fèis Ìle 2023: Canasta Cask Matured & Bunnahabhain Fèis Ìle 2023: 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish


As we approach Fèis Ìle 2023, we're taking a look at this years Bunnahabhain offerings.

Bunnahabhain Fèis Ìle 2023: Canasta Cask Matured

Region: Islay

ABV: 51.2%

Price: £95.00

First up, we have an unpeated, non-age-stated release that was matured in William and Humbert Canasta sherry casks, also known as "cream sherry" casks. These casks have historically held a mixture of Oloroso (75%) and Pedro Ximenez (25%) sherries.

Nose

Initially we’re getting notes of butter, strawberry yoghurt, and cumin spice. A little air reveals sherry vinaigrette, thyme, coriander, freshly plucked roses, treacle and Robinson fruit cordial. To be honest we were expecting more sherry notes from this. Saying that, the nose is pleasant enough and the alcohol isn’t overpowering.

Palate

The palate reveals flavours of figs, burnt reduced raisins, prune juice, and dark chocolate. There's a fair amount of ginger and chili spice that lingers on the palate, providing a long finish even after the sweetness dissipates. Unfortunately, it has a disappointing, somewhat thin mouthfeel. Additionally, it feels a bit too hot for our liking, and the nose and palate don't align perfectly, with a stronger punch of sherry on the palate than on the nose.

Nose (with water)

A few drops of water bring out additional spice, specifically cinnamon. The Robinson summer fruit notes have transformed into dried mangoes and apricots. Additionally, there are hints of caramel and passion fruit. Personally, we found the nose more enjoyable before dilution.

Palate (with water)

Reduction has brought out more bitterness, and we're getting a drier sherry, almost as if it matured in a fino cask. The finish is shorter, with less spice. The mouthfeel remains disappointing.

Conclusion

So, first of all, don't add water as it doesn't benefit this drink. Secondly, if you've already purchased it, you'll probably be satisfied with it. It's a perfectly acceptable dram. However, if you haven't bought it and are still undecided, we would recommend passing on it. While it's drinkable, it's nowhere near worth £95.

Score: 7/10


Bunnahabhain Fèis Ìle 2023: 1998 Manzanilla Cask Finish

Region: Islay

ABV: 52.3%

Price: £450.00

Next up is another unpeated release that was distilled on the 28th October 1998 and filled into American Oak casks before being transferred to first-fill Manzanilla sherry casks on the 25th May 2016 to finish.

Nose

The nose opens with notes of leather, pepper, and apricot jam. It's quite restrained initially. Giving it time in the glass reveals pistachios, apples, lavender, rowies (butteries), and salty sea air. It needs time in a glass to open up, and you may be slightly disappointed with the neck pour.

Palate

Initially, we're getting roasted coffee, treacle, caramel, and sugar syrup, all nicely balanced by a little peppercorn spice. As it sits in the glass, figs, sultanas, and toffee emerge. It has a good-length finish, and once again, the spice lingers, but in a much more pleasant way than the Canasta. Additionally, it offers a much nicer mouthfeel.

Nose (with water)

With reduction, we’re noticing a slight warehouse mustiness, there’s also less tropical fruit notes and an increase in red fruit. Or more specifically strawberry coulis. Similar to the pre-dilution, this benefits from exposure to air and time in the glass. There’s now much more Sherry with notes of raisins, prunes, and Christmas pudding.

Palate (with water)

Upon reduction, we're finding an increased bitterness, as well as a stronger sherry influence, consistent with the nose. The finish also showcases more sweetness. The mouthfeel remains satisfying, although it now carries a slightly hotter sensation. As the whisky sits in the glass, we also find notes of banana loaf and lime zest. Personally, we would avoid adding water, as we prefer it undiluted, but others may choose to add a few drops.

Conclusion

It’s a very good dram, but it’s also £450. While we’d happily drink this all day there’s no way we’d drop the cash in it as there’s much cheaper whiskies out there that are just as good.

Score: 7.5/10

  • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
  • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
  • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
  • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
  • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
  • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
  • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
  • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
  • 2 - Pour it out
  • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

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