To be fair, this release seems to have been available for longer internationally, but only appeared in Australian duty free / travel retail stores, along with some other Bunnahabhain bottlings, earlier this year. And while all of those bottlings are priced pretty reasonably in those duty free stores, two in particular are absolute bargains. The two I'm referring to are the 1-litre bottlings, one heavily peated and bottled at 50% ABV under the name 'Cruach Mhona' (Gaelic for 'Peat Stack'), and the bottling I'm looking at today, the (basically) un-peated 'Eirigh Na Greine', which is Gaelic for 'Morning Sky'. which sells for a pretty amazing $65 AUD in its 1-litre bottle. And as with all the modern Bunnahabhain bottlings, it's bottled at 46.3%, non-chill filtered and naturally coloured. Seems like an absolute bargain, doesn't it?
I'm a big fan of Bunnahabhain's heavily-peated offerings, in particular the Ceobanach (yes, they do love their unpronounceable names). Being the 'other' Islay distillery that is mainly producing un-peated whisky, although still high in quality, the 'standard' Bunnahabhain releases (peated to a featherweight 3-5 ppm) haven't quite ticked my boxes. So far, anyway. This Eirigh Na Greine (pronounced "Airy-nah-gray-nuh") is a little different to the norm though, with "a significant proportion of high-quality ex-red wine" casks involved, and apparently they were a mix of French & Italian red wine. But that's where the information stops unfortunately, so we can safely assume that the majority of the vatting is still from ex-bourbon casks, and there's also no age statement, so we can safely assume the majority of the contents is on the younger side. It's apparently 'travel retail exclusive' (boo!), but it can be purchased from a couple of regular online stores in Australia, albeit for a significantly higher price. Let's give it a whirl.
Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine, NAS, 46.3%. Islay, Scotland.
A "significant proportion" matured in ex-red wine casks. Remainder unknown. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.
Nose: Fresh & sweet, pleasant. Quite nutty think roasted nuts with a little salt, and malty as well. Some furniture polish, and a candy-like boiled lolly sweetness.
Texture: Light-medium weight, warming with a slight touch of spirit-y heat.
Taste: Nutty & malty again, some hints of the wine influence now too. Light sweet red berries and some grapes, and a slight hint of wine tannins. A little citrus zest, and some more furniture polish.
Finish: Short-medium length. A little honey sweetness and some vanilla cream. Mild baking spices as well.
Score: 3 out of 5.
Notes: Pleasant and very drinkable, but not overly complex or challenging, or particularly exciting really. There's no "wow!" moment, but it's nice & easy dramming. Considering the duty free / travel retail price it's not a bad showing at all, there are many worse choices available on those shelves. Having said that, it wouldn't be my choice if I was specifically looking for a red wine-matured whisky, but then again my choices in that category would be at least double the price of this Bunna', and in a 700ml bottle no less, so perhaps that's not a fair statement.
The obvious comparison would be the standard Bunnahabhain 12-year old, and while they're very different whiskies, I'd have to give the win to the 12. The Eirigh Na Greine just doesn't have that interesting island twist, that unique 'funk' as it's also known. But if you're not a fan of 'funky' whiskies, this might be the one for you. Although definitely not at the local retail prices, if you ask me. It's quite rare for a whisky to actually be significantly cheaper in travel retail these days, especially in Australia, but in this case there's a surprising difference in price that just can't be ignored. And the duty free price is definitely the one to go for here.