Bunnahabhain is a firm favourite among whisky lovers across the globe for its unpeated Islay single malts and limited edition bottlings.
The distillery was built on a remote northeastern corner of Islay in 1881 by William Robertson. In 1887, Bunnahabhain – Gaelic for “mouth of the river” – amalgamated with Glenrothes-Glenlivet to form Highland Distillers.
The distillery closed its doors for a brief spell in 1982 when some of the most famous Scotch whisky names also shuttered, but was able to reopen two years later.
Bunnahabhain stayed with Highland Distillers (now Edrington) until 2003 when the company was sold to Burn Stewart. Ten years later, the South African wine and spirits behemoth Distell Group acquired the brand as part of its Burn Stewart take-over.
Bunnahabhain wasn’t available as a single malt until the 1970s. Before this time, the Islay malt played a vital role in Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and Black Bottle blends. To this day, the milder Bunnahabhain whiskies are still used in famous blends.
In 2017, a three-year £10.5m upgrade restored original buildings and removed, relocated, and renovated others to make way for a visitor centre.
Today, the distillery boasts a number of Islay records: it is the only one to use pure spring water from the Margadale River. Its mash tun is the largest on the island and Scotland – the stainless steel, copper-topped vessel can hold 12.5 tonnes. Bunnahabhain also owns the tallest still on Islay. The unusually long swan necks produce a lighter, more delicate flavour profile.
Total annual production capacity at Bunnahabhain is approximately 2,500,000 litres. All the whiskies are made from either peated or non-peated concerto barley, which are then passed through the Porteus Mill. Fermentation is long and can last up to 100 hours. Once distilled, the new-make is matured in the distillery’s coastal warehouses, some of which date back to 1881 and have a total capacity for 20,700 butts, hogsheads and barrels.
Bunnahabhain’s aged single malts and limited edition releases are greatly sought after. The Islay distillery also produces a peated expression: Mòine, which translates as “peated” in Gaelic.