Heroes & Heretics… and a 27yo Bunnahabhain

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We love a revival, don’t we? Particularly if you were a child in the 1990s (like me) and are currently thoroughly enjoying the full Friends back catalogue on Netflix, massive earphones, polaroid cameras… and, ahem, the Spice Girls reunion. The same can be said in whisky, with the imminent revival of the Port Ellen, Brora, and Rosebank distilleries, as well as the Crabbie, James Eadie, and Tweeddale brands.

The Higginbottom is another one which is joining the above ranks. If you were a soldier in the Boer War or First World War and you partook in some whisky on the front lines, chances are you’d have had some of Higginbottom’s renowned Club Blend. Sadly, this brand died out when Henry Higginbottom passed in the early 1900s, but Heroes & Heretics have revived the name, and has bottled some rather interesting single casks in the process. The Higginbottom Revival range consists of a 1990 Strathclyde, a 2009 Heaven Hill and a pair of 1989 sister cask Bunnahabhains. They kindly sent me a sample of one of the Bunnahabhains, so without further ado…

Bunnahabhain 1989 27yo
Higginbottom Revival
Bourbon Hogshead Cask #7714
289 bottles
41.9% ABV
£165 here

Nose: Loads of juicy, tropical fruits – melon balls, mango, watermelon, pineapple, pear flesh, and poached apple. Then some fresh laundry, lemon creams, banana Nesquik, sweet breakfast cereals and grape skins. It’s all very clean – very little wood, and a touch mineralic.

Palate: Again, it kicks off with the fruit – more mango, melon and juicy orchard fruits, with orange blossom, faint rosewater, violets, barley sugars and Love Heart sweets. There’s keylime pie, vanilla Angel Delight and eventually, some gentle, drying oak.

Finish: Easy going light, gingery, zesty, spice, with a soft oakiness and clean maritime notes.

Overall: Completely unexpected, if I’m honest. The tropical fruits are by far and away the dominant force on the nose and the palate, and that’s no bad thing. I guess I was expecting something more tannic, oaky, and dark, but this is a very sprightly 27 year old whisky. The wood is remarkably restrained, there’s lots of bright, vibrant, notes, and it’s not at all tired or muted. For this whisky to be at 41.9 % (and its sister cask to be at 41.0%) hints at a rather porous vessel, and that oxidative maturation has really worked wonders. The word ‘juice’ is thrown around a lot with aging whisky geeks trying to sound cool and ‘millennial’, but this really is alcoholic fruit juice. A joyous single cask.

 

 

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World Whiskies Awards Judge         Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards Judge Global Scotch Masters Judge         Scottish Whisky Awards Judge