Today we are interviewing Mike Brisebois of Distell Whisky (Bunnahabhain, Ledaig and Tobermory) on Bunnahabhain’s newest expression Toiteach A Dhà. Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà (meaning ‘Smoky Two’ in Gaelic) is made using the Bunnahabhain Moine (meaning ‘Peated’ in Gaelic) and is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Peated Scotch is one of those whiskies that people either really hate or only drink exclusively. Though peat is definitely not an entry level taste, it does make Scotch far more interesting! Sherry casks matured whiskies, on the other hand, are extremely approachable because of its sweetness. This is why it is an interesting combination to have a peated Scotch matured in Sherry casks.
For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you’ll know that I am currently pregnant so I haven’t been able to write the best tasting notes because I’m always missing the finish! With that being said, I’ve enlisted the palettes of my good friend Devin (@SpiritAndOak) for tasting notes. I also sat down a panel of thirsty co-workers for their feedback as well. Let’s just say that even though I’m missing out on the whisky, you, my dear readers, are not missing out on the thorough tasting notes!
Grayce: Hi Mike, thanks for chatting with us. Before we begin, tell us about your whisky journey. How did you get to where you are today?
Mike: My passion for whisky began a little more than ten years ago when I had my first taste of Scotch. It all flourished from there. I began to research all aspects of the history of this amazing spirit. Being seen as a source of information by many as a whisky resource. I founded a whisky club, was a Judge for the Canadian Whisky Awards and after numerous tastings I realized I wanted to be a brand ambassador. I love to explore all things whisky. I had my first taste of Bunnahabhain a little over four years ago and the explosion of flavors peeked my curiosity for the brand. After requesting to meet the brand ambassador for the brand and soon realizing there were no such person in Canada in the role, I simply asked for the job. Four years later I am exploring Canada from coast to coasts spreading my love and passion for whisky. My first pilgrimage to Scotland was in the spring of 2016 where my fondest memory was enjoying a dram of Bunnahabhain 18 while overlooking the Sound of Islay at the Bunnahabhain distillery.
Grayce: What is your most memorable dram of whisky?
Mike: That is a tough one as there are many. However if I need to choose one it would be the Ledaig 42. I had a few opportunities to taste it however the most memorable time was when I visited the Tobermory Distillery and was able to taste this expression which has been maturing since 1972 right in the warehouse where it is maturing! Being at the distillery and in the warehouse and enjoying this dram is my most memorable dram of whisky.
Grayce: After a long day leading whisky tastings and educations, do you drink whisky at home? If so, what is your choice sipping whisky?
Mike: My absolute dram of choice is the Bunnahabhain 12. It really is my go to whisky. This is the whisky that made me fall in love with the brand. Each time I revisit this expression it always offers something different in aromas and flavours. It really is an explosion of flavours.
Grayce: Traditionally, a lot of bourbon casks are used because they can only be filled once with bourbon. Other than bourbon and sherry, what are your favourite type of cask finished whiskies.
Mike: Bunnahabhain has released some spectacular limited released expression which we have used casks that previously held Brandy, American Craft Ale, Moscato, Marsala to name a few. However just recently a Bordeaux Red Wine Cask matured Bunnahabhain and this is really a favourite cask type for me with a beautiful balance of sweet grape, chocolate, toffee and expresso flavours!
Grayce: Sounds delicious! I hope I get to try that soon 😊 Let’s talk about Bunnahabhain’s newest release – the Toiteach A Dhà. What was the fermentation time used for the Toiteach A Dhà?
Mike: At Bunnahbhain we have 6 Oregon Pine Washbacks each with a capacity of 66,500 litres. We have to create fermentation cycles which optimize the efficiency of the wash stills. For Monday and Tuesday fermentation lasts 48 hours so that the wash can be distilled that week. For Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the fermentation last about 100 hours and are distilled the following week. The two different distillations are then married together before casking.
Grayce: What flavour profiles were you looking for when blending the Toiteach A Dhà and did you achieve them or find something better along the way?
The goal with the release of the Toiteach A Dhà was to have more of a sherry influence in which our core range all have. After bottling it was the perfect balance with a wonderful effect of the oloroso sherry casks. Toiteach A Dhà (pronounced Toch-ach ah-ghaa, meaning ‘Smoky Two’ in Scots Gaelic) is a sequel to the original peaty paradox on Bunnahabhain’s gentle single malt, with a touch of smoke from our peated malted barley introduced during its creation and combined with a higher sherry influence.
Grayce: Are there any new releases coming up from Bunnahabhain that we can anticipate?
Mike: Very soon we will see the incredible 1997 Bunnahabhain Palo Cortado Cask Finish, and it is quite impressive! After spending 19 years slowly mellowing by the sea in traditional oak whisky casks, this delectable Bunnahabhain was then finished for almost two more years in rare Palo Cortado sherry casks. The result is a tantalizing dram, full of berries and cream and a surprising hint of nutmeg.
Nose: Peat (smoky)
Palette: Raisins, sea salt, wood/oak
Finish: Warm, peppery and long
Overall Consensus: The long and warm finish makes it the perfect autumn drink. Reminds many people of being at the cottage in September. The whisky iteself taste much sweeter than it smells and for those people that enjoy a peated Scotch, the sweetness from the oloroso sherry was quite enjoyable.