Bunnahabhain’s Feis Ile Releases 2022

As travel becomes less complicated and tests, proof and the need to be negative are reducing I was delighted to receive an invitation to find out a little more about Bunnahabhain’s new biomass plant and also to get a sneak peek at the 2022 Fèis Ìle releases.

April 20th was my first flight since August 2019, and I was glad my first would be a flight to Islay. The clear blue sky offered fantastic views of Scotland’s west coast islands, lochs and rugged coastline. In less than thirty minutes I was on Islay. After a quick breakfast stop at The Machrie Hotel, we headed to Bunnahabhain to take a look at what they’ve been up to this last year on-site.

Renewable energy and sustainable energy are becoming paramount to many industries, including distilling. Therefore, it is no wonder a distillery the size of Bunnahabhain was interested in playing its part. On arriving at Bunnahabhain we were presented with a preview of the brand-new Biomass Energy Centre – putting Bunnahabhain on track to become the first distillery on Islay to achieve net-zero distillation. On the day we visited it was planned that the energy centre would be switched on the following Tuesday with a view it would be a full power by Friday. It appeared they were poised to begin, with huge stacks of felled tree trunks piled high around the site, ready to be chipped to produce the distillery’s much-needed energy.

Next, we had a sneak peek at this year’s Fèis Ìle drams – below is the official statement from Bunnahabhain about the three releases.

Abhainn Araig, a non-age statement marriage of Bunnahabhain spirit, 2004 Moine Tokaji and 1998 French Calvados cask finish.

Bottled at 50.8% abv, Abhainn Araig takes its name from the Araig River on Islay, a vital life source for the distillery. It is a marriage of Bunnahabhain spirit that has been matured in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry, in a selection of octave casks. The bottling has a velvety rich texture, with notes of chocolate, powdered ginger and cigar box on the nose and dark toffee and spicy cinnamon on the palate. This will be available in markets across the globe.

A special edition 1998 Cask Finish has been bottled in celebration of Feis at 49.7% abv. Finished in Calvados brandy casks, this bottle has slumbered peacefully for two decades on Bunnahabhain’s shores before spending the last two years of its life in casks that once held the finest French Calvados. Tawny in colour, this dram contains notes of barley sugar, pear drops and toffee apples on the nose, and green apples, pear candies and toffee on the palate with a lingering floral finish. This will also be available in markets across the globe.

The Moine Tokaji finish is bottled at 52.5% abv, and is produced using Bunnahabhain Moine, meaning ‘peated’ in Scots Gaelic. The 2004 Moine Tokaji was finished in casks which once held the finest Hungarian Tokaji white wine. Caramel in colour with touches of white sugar, sandalwood and citrus on the nose, the palate features smoky vanilla pods, white chocolate, lemon zest and pear, with the sweetness of the Tokaji drops leaving notes of freshly sawn-oak wood.

But I thought… Together this trio represents what can be done from one ‘fabulous‘ and ‘big‘ distillery. Julieann’s choice of ages, maturation and cask finishes have produced a broad spread of flavours from three very different limited releases of this famous Islay Scotch Whisky.

My palate on the day preferred the Calvados Finish, sitting by the water, with the paps of Jura on one side and the walls of the distillery on the other the Calvados’s imprint on the spirit was undeniable. Rich and juicy green apples coupled with signature salty seaside notes with a lingering mineralic and nutty finish.

Later that day I had a chance to sit down with Juliann and discuss her journey to becoming a master blender and also some of her thoughts on the progression of cask maturation. This interview will be posted on WhiskyBoys within the next couple of weeks.

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