1997 Bunnahabhain Heavily Peated 16 Year Old K&L Exclusive Chieftain's Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 750ml (Previously $130)
When you hear about whisky "shortages," we're not necessarily referring to the idea that there's less actual whisky in the world, just less of it available for purchase. When fear and anxiety about future stocks take hold, companies will begin holding back inventory, dreading the idea of a whisky-less future should their available casks be gobbled up too quickly. This was our experience in 2013 while travelling through Scotland. In 2014, however, some of our partners began throwing us a few bones to test the waters; one of these bottlers was Chieftain's. After a fruitless crop in '13, we managed to secure one whole barrel the following year and was it ever a winner. This 1997 Bunnahabhain was part of a heavily peated run by the Islay distillery, resulting in one phenolic blast of a whisky. The sweet-fruited spirit of Bunnahabhain is the first thing you taste when the whisky hits your lips, but then it is utterly obliterated by motor oil, smoke, scorched earth, and more massive smoke. It's like getting punched in the mouth with a burning chunk of peat moss while trying to savor a piece of hard candy. At 56.1%, the heat of the alcohol only adds to this intensity. The finish lightens the load just a bit, as the machinery slows down and mutates into a lovely Ardbeg-like brightness. We only got one single cask of whisky from Chieftain's this year, but we got the absolute best one they had. It's not for the weak-hearted, however.