Review : Bunnahabhain Stiuireadair


July brings with it a review that is very much Islay; spawning thoughts of peat, smoke, cigarette ash and leather? Unfortunately this strays from normalcy, sans most of the peaty influences, but also adorning a name that looks daunting to pronounce – Stiuireadair ! Pronounced as “Stew-rah-dur” (Thx to the internet), meaning “Helmsman” in Gaelic, is an ode to the sea, embracing how the maritime and its influences have found itself woven into the very fabric that has made the distillery. The name can also be seen reinforced on the labelling, with the helmsman positioned centrally across the traditional Bunna styled dark coloured bottling.

Bunnahabhain was in fact all peat when they first fired up their stills back in 1883, procuring peat from the nearby banks. However in 1963 they decided to stray away, producing unpeated whiskies for their own malts and for blends such as Cutty Sark, Black Bottle and Famous Grouse. I ponder why the move and though not a bad thing, perhaps it was the huge demand for non peated blends at the time? Just an assumption, as the timelines also coincided with the distillery having to build on their existing infrastructure to meet with the demands.

By the end of the century, the distillers began to dip their toes into peat once again but it was only by 2003, that they officially reintroduced peat into their expressions, producing both peated and unpeated spirits in cycles. The Stiuireadair is an unpeated expression aged in a combination of first fill and second fill ex-sherry casks; lacking any artificial colouring or chill filtration.

ABV : 40%

Eye : Amber | NCF, Natural Colouring

Nose : Wood interleaved with vanilla and grain; raisins, plums and dried fruits with a whiff of maritime and brine. A touch of caramel resonates in the midst of leather, chai and green pepper.

Taste : Caramel drizzled over dried fruits, with oak wood and milk chocolate. Sweetness from stone fruits with sherried influences and some dryness on the palate with char, followed by some earthiness, spice and menthol.

Finish : Caramel and dried fruits with a mild warming spice | Medium

This Bunnahabhain is young and crisp, moderately complex but lacking maturity. It does have the makings of a solid dram but falls short, missing that oomph factor. Not overly sweet on the palate, but delivering a play of spice, plum and raisins that carries itself over to the finish. Maybe a bit more time in the barrels would have allowed this expression to evolve into a more robust and wholesome being.

Having said that, at AUD $80 this is still a good buy; giving you a pleasant and delightful experience, reminding you that peat is not always a requisite even if an Islay. For the price, it provides better than fair value and a preview of what true Bunna can be – their 12 YO is smacking!



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