Into the second week of Bunnahabhain which is quite the flavour of the month with me just now. The Islay festival or Fies Ile however is not something I have ever wanted to experience. The whisky events during the festival seem to me at least too busy and too crowded.

The Islay festival itself started in the late 1980’s as a community drive to revive the Gaelic language within the island community. The two week festivals were filled with music, dancing, community competitions and dressing up driving a bi-lingual . By 1990 whisky had started to feature in the event and by the 2000’s the first distilleries started to become more involved. This has then evolved over the next 20 years into the large and perhaps commercial whisky centric event it is today.

Or at least until 2020 arrived and the global pandemic led to everything being cancelled.

With the island empty of tourists and indeed some of the festival bottles not even bottled the distilleries had to decide what to do next. The answer for Bunnahabhain with their bottles ready to go was to plough ahead and go virtual. I have to say at this point I didn’t participate in the zoom call to taste together the two releases and talk all things Bunnahabhain. The days events weren’t just the call though there was a number of videos and behind the scenes action and this was in line with a lot of what the other distilleries did during the fortnight. While I didn’t have the time to take out my day to watch the content we are in the great position of all the content still being available on their FaceBook page at

The Dram

The Madeira finish on this bottle was done for three years on 14 year old whisky which had been maturing at the distillery. Bottled at 53% ABV there was 1164 full size bottles available at basically 200 pounds each with a number of sample bottles available for buying at 16 pounds for the two festival releases. This article and the Thursday’s are made from those more keenly priced packs and not from buying full size bottles.

Tasting Notes

Colour – oranges and tangerines

Nose – strongly sweet with jam sponges and marmalade. A brilliantly confectionery fruity nose but this develops into golden syrup and liquorice allsorts.

Palate – Quite a thick texture with a definite bitter oaky note and cinnamon swirls.

Finish – Decent length finish with a lot of wood spices on a drying finish.

Final Thoughts

The fragrances in the glass are just lovely with so much beautiful sweet fruity notes. If I am honest it is that which makes the whisky for me. The long term maturation and sweet finishing has really worked well and I enjoyed the whisky immensely. Obviously the price is steep and I wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money but enough people are willing to and if they open their bottles they will be pleased with their purchase. If someone puts one into auction and it flops I will be sure to snap it up. You have been warned.

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