Glasgow’s Whisky Club bears the motto “A dram, not a drama” – which is the very relaxed attutude strictly followed by the jolly faithful. Once a month we meet to enjoy whisky and to talk about, well, anything – and whisky. A quick bio of the members would include (friendly and lovable without a drink in them!) writers, undertakers, newspaper journalists, ballet dancers – and anyone who loves the water of life.
This month’s meeting was a round-the-barrel night and no exception to any other – friendly faces, broad smiles (broader as the night wears on), the occasional warm hug (usually end of the night), and more whisky than you can shake a malt shovel at!
For a very nominal feel members are obliged to enjoy a range of the club’s stock. Among many other things on show was Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Finish, but before I go on, a wee bit about the distillery:
Bunnahabhain (meaning “mouth of the river”) was established in 1881 near Port Askaig on the North shore of Islay. Malt whiskies from this Hebridean Isle are distinguished by their peaty flavour – while bearing this character, Bunnahabhain is very understated in its peat influence compared to some of the heavy hitters from the south of the island (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin).
Back to the whisky…
Bottled at cask strength (53.2%) Bunnahabhain 16yo Manzanilla Finish is remarkably smooth for its strength – an influence of the manzanilla sherry cask. Straight away you can see the effect the sherry wood has had on the colour of the whisky which is a deeper, rich, burnt gold compared to usual lighter gold. Rolling it around the glass there is a definite viscous, silky quality to the appearance. The intense nose is rich with a hint of sweetness, fresh sea air, and dried oranges skirting around the edge. The palate explodes with flavour – burnt chocolate, toasted almonds, fruit cake, delicate salty dryness, and just a hint of Christmas spices and a hot fire. It finished with a handful of buttered popcorn, hot smoky bacon in the distance carried on a warm wind, a hint of stewed cherries and slight bitterness on the way down. The texture and sweetness of the dram is delightful with its bracing bitter finish make it very drinkable. Unfortunately it lacks excitement, and the weight of the manzanilla was just too much for the level of peating – the peat was so hard to detect, if I had tried it blind I might not have guessed it was an Islay. Still, it’s a lovely whisky and I would have no problem with a top-up!
After the Bunnahabhain I had one of the best value blends I’ve had in a long time – Adelphi Private Stock, from independent bottler Adelphi, who specialise in bottling rare single cask whiskies. Smooth, a touch of sweetness, chocolate, fresh raspberries, a tiny hint of fresh basil with a nice spicy burn. This is a simple whisky which doesn’t require much contemplation, but for around £16 a bottle it may be some time before I come across such good value in a blend.
There were a good few other whiskies on the barrel but better sense steered me away – it was a school night after all!