Age: No age statement
Bunnahabhain distillery is a bit of a rarity on Islay, given that most of its whiskies are unpeated. This fact does not make it the ugly duckling of the island however, as Bunnahabhain produces some very enjoyable whiskies, with the 12 and 18 year olds being a particular delight. Over past years, the distillery has been adding limited editions to their core range, with Gaelic names such as Darach Ùr, Ceòbanach, Toiteach and Cruach Mhona. This particular release has been finished in casks that previously held red wine, giving the whisky an extra layer of fruity, spicy influences. Eirigh Na Greine is Gaelic for ‘Morning Sky’, which is reflected in the stunning red packaging of this expression. For a distillery that’s located on Islay’s eastern shores and faces the sunrise every day, this is of course more than appropriate. This is my first tasting of this whisky, so let’s hope the Eirigh Na Greine does not prove to be a false dawn!
Nose: Salty and sultry, like an ocean breeze blowing through a fruit orchard on a midsummer night. Notes of red berries and stewed pears intertwine with a hint of walnuts. Underneath the dominant fruity character, the aromas of toasted barley and fragrant heather shine through. Yet there is a slightly unpleasant metallic smell as well, although this is very much in the background.
Palate: Sharp and peppery, this dram takes a while to open up. When it does, salty and oaky flavours dominate. There are quite some fruity notes too, but they struggle to break through. Somehow the red wine finish is not complementary to the usual Bunnahabhain distillery character, as both sets of flavours battle for prominence.
Finish: Long and rather spicy, leaving you with a lingering, bittersweet oaky aftertaste.
Verdict: The beautiful packaging and a fancy red wine finish notwithstanding, this whisky lacks some finesse. Although I encourage the experiment of adding some extra depth and complexity to the regular Bunnahabhain profile, the resulting whisky is rather unbalanced, with some rough, metallic edges. Maybe this is due to this dram’s youth, as I suspect it to be significantly younger than the 12 year old core expression. Yet the Octomore 02.2 (Château Pétrus finish) is one of my favourite drams, so it’s not as if red wine finishes and young whiskies cannot go together. Having said that, adding a few drops of water to the Eirigh Na Greine helps the whisky open up somewhat, and makes the whole experience a bit more enjoyable.