When you think of Bunnahabhain distillery, you usually think specifically of not peat. So many Islay distilleries specialize in peated whisky that Bunnahabhain is remarkable precisely because it doesn’t. Now and again, however, Bunnahabhain does introduce a peated whisky, and Ceòbanach is a perfect example.
There is no age statement on the bottle, but the word is that Ceòbanach is 10 years old. The name translates to “Smoky Mist.” The goal with Ceòbanach was to create an old-fashioned whisky which might taste similar to what you would find for sale around the turn of the 20th century. Being as the distillery was founded in 1881, this whisky would hearken back to its beginnings.
Despite being a limited edition release, it isn’t that hard to get your hands on Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach. I purchased mine for around £60.
The bottle which Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach comes in is very dark, so it is impossible to see the color of the liquid until you pour it into your glass. It comes out a pale golden color.
On the nose, you pick up smoky peat along with brine and salt—a classic Islay scent. There are also strong notes of tar and a hint of coconut and vanilla. Almost no sweetness comes through. It is a dark and heavy profile, reminiscent of the sea.
On the palate, the flavors are very similar to what I detected through scent alone. The peat is there along with the tar and the lemon. Along with those notes, there is also oak and spices. I no longer really detect any vanilla, and again, there is no sweetness.
I’m not sure if I was surprised to note that Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach isn’t all that “strong” with respect to the peat. On one hand, it is most of what I smelled when I opened the bottle, so I had initially guessed the flavor might be stronger. But on the other hand, this is in line with what Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach usually produces. Since Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach usually steers clear of peat altogether, we should expect them to go easy on it when they do use it. Most of their regular customers are in the market for a break from peat after all.
If you are interested in a peaty whisky that isn’t going to totally overwhelm you, I think that Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach is an excellent choice. It is the classic Islay peat experience, just mellowed out to a level which allows the other flavors to shine through.
Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach : Review Summary
Color: Pale gold.
Nose: Smoky peat, salt, brine, tar, coconut, vanilla.
Palate: Light peat, tar, lemon, oak, spices.