So perhaps I have become a little bit of a single malt snob… I tend to purchase whiskies from distilleries I have visited, although I am always happy to drink a dram from parts known or unknown in bars or with friends (don’t let that deter you from the occasional gift of scotch or bourbon!). One particularly memorable single malt that I enjoyed during my visit to Islay two and a half years ago, the Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhòna, had proven impossible to find in the United States. Even the distillery’s website makes no mention of this expression, although I fondly remember how this quite peaty single malt capped off the in-the-dark/no-power tour of Bunnahabhain… was it no longer in production? Did I have a sip of the last batch that was ever produced? That would be a shame. Preceding a trip to Europe over the holidays (which, as usual, would take me through London) I checked into the World of Whiskies website and discovered the Cruach Mhòna among the whiskies for sale… was this a current product that would actually be on the shelves of one of their airport locations? Time to check in with Bunnahabhain directly.
the Heathrow location… will I find it there?
I received a very detailed reply from David at Bunnahabhain, assuring me that Cruach Mhòna is still currently in production. It is a “travel retail exclusive,” meaning that it is not sold at regular liquor stores but is only available for purchase in duty free shops in airports. David explained that Cruach Mhòna is a “non-age-statement,” consisting mostly of whisky that has been aged in bourbon casks for less than ten years; a small amount of older Sherry-cask-aged whiskies are blended into the mix to “sweeten” the overall taste, and the “peat factor” comes in at 25 phenol parts per million (not terribly high when compared to some of the smoke monster whiskies produced by the southern distilleries). He could not give me a reason why it is not listed on the website (as is Eirigh Na Greine, also a travel retail exclusive)… so even though batch no. 9 was recently released, perhaps Cruach Mhòna is a secret….
Armed with this affirmation/information, I visited the Gatwick World of Whiskies on my way to Germany to see if the whisky is actually available – and it was! But I decided to risk waiting to buy a bottle until flying back to the US from Heathrow; fortunately there was no shortage of Cruach Mhòna (from batch no. 8) at this location. A one-liter bottle, it is not an inexpensive whisky, but thanks to a friend who rewarded me generously for proof-reading his dissertation I was able to complete a two-and-a-half-year search for this elusive dram. I was able to take it onto my flight to the US, but thanks to odd TSA liquids regulations it had to be put into checked baggage for the connecting flight despite the fact that it had been packed in a tamper-proof bag at the point of (duty-free) purchase… too bad Bunnahabhain does not have transparent bottles. All’s well that ends well, and the whisky is now “home.”
As wonderful as I remember: a pungent smoky-sweet nose gives way to a more subtle peat flavor complemented by sweet honey notes and hints of pear with a spicy but smooth finish. A beautiful golden color in the glass, Cruach Mhòna is truly a pleasure for the senses – and was well worth the “quest.” Sláinte!