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Bunnahabhain plans oldest release yet

Islay whisky distiller Bunnahabhain has revealed a plan to launch its oldest ever age statement whisky next year.

Confirming that the new expression would be “at least four decades” old, Michelle Lansdowne, senior global brand manager for Burn Stewart Distillers, told the drinks business that the casks had been bought back from the distillery’s previous owner.

“It will be a very limited release because it’s very limited quantity,” she said, noting that with only “100 bottles or so”, the new whisky would be offered “on strict allocation”. This distribution strategy is expected to focus on Canada and the US, Bunnahabhain’s key markets for its top expressions.

Despite acknowledging that the release will carry “quite a steep price”, Lansdowne stressed the value offered by a product of such rarity and quality, while noting that the team was currently working on bespoke packaging for the whisky.

Indeed, she remarked that due to the attention being paid to the packaging, the new expression would not reach the market until “the second half of next year”.

The launch follows a one-off 750 bottle release of Bunnahabhain 40-year-old in 2012, which carried an RRP of nearly £2,000 and, according to the Burn Stewart team, is now almost entirely sold out.

Founded in 1881, Bunnahabhain was initially incorporated into the Islay Distillery Co before merging with William Grant & Co to form Highland Distillers. In 2003 the distillery was bought by Burn Stewart Distillers, who in turn were acquired by South African drinks group Distell earlier this year.

According to Lansdowne, sales of Bunnahabhain have been growing at 107% annually since 2008. Although the distillery has stepped up production, she confirmed: “Demand exceeds supply.”

2014 will also see the brand roll out a whisky and food pairing programme which it has developed in partnership with Geoffrey Smeddle, chef-owner of Michelin-starred Scottish restaurant The Peat Inn.


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