Bunnahabhain Distillery Information

Founded in 1881 by William Robertson (from the Glasgow-based Robertson & Baxter blending house) and brothers James and William Greenless (from Islay Distillers Company) the Bunnahabhain (which is Gaelic for “Foot of the river”, and is pronounced as “Bun-a-hav-in”) distillery is situated on the mouth of the Margadale river. It overlooks the Sound of Islay; a narrow channel between the Isle of Islay and the Isle of Jura. The distillery was built in a rather remote location, leading to its workers establishing a village with the name of the distillery, though it did require to have a mile-long road built to connect the distillery to Islay’s main road. The location, though remote, was chosen due to a nearby loch (Staoinsha) able to provide ample amounts of peaty water, and a natural harbor close-by that made the location very accessible by boat. Its location makes Bunnahabhain the most Northern Islay distillery. The coast near the distillery holds the shipwreck of the “Wyre Majestic”, a trawler that ran aground on the rocks at Rubha a’Mhail on October 18, 1974. The treacherous coast around the Sound of Islay holds the wreck of some 50 or so other ships as well.

Whisky production commenced in 1883, and in 1887, the distillery became one of the founding members of the Highland Distillers Company Ltd.The late 1920s/early 1930s crisis caused the distillery to be closed between 1930 and 1937. When reopening, the whisky from Bunnahabhain was primarily used for the “Black Bottle” blend, containing some whisky from every distillery on Islay) from Highland Distillers Co. As demand for the blend increased, in 1963, the number of stills increased from 2 to 4 in order to keep up with the demand.

The first release of Bunnahabhain Single Malt wasn’t until the 1970s, and even then the amount released was very limited. Between 1982 and 1984, the distillery was forced to close its doors once more, and in 1999 the Edrington Group (who also own The Macallan and Highland Park), acquired Highland Distillers, and with it Bunnahabhain.

The distillery was essentially mothballed by Edrington Group as they wanted to focus on their core brands (which, apart from the two single malt brands named earlier, also include The Famous Grouse and Cutty Shark), as it was only opened for production a few week a year in order to produce sufficient whisky for their blends. In 2003, Burnt Stewart (who also owned Deanston and Tobermory) distillers purchased Bunnahabhain and the Black Bottle brand name from the Edrington Group. Interestingly enough, the Edrington Group is still the main customer of the distillery.

Bunnahabhain Whisky

All Bunnahabhain whisky is made with lighty peated barley, rather than the traditional heavy peating that’s typical for Islay whisky (Another exception to this is Bruichladdich). The whisky therefore is marketed as “The gentle taste of Islay”. In 2010 the distillery made the choice to switch from chill-filtered to non-chill filtered whisky in order to preserve as much of the taste as possible. However, this meant that when cold water was added, there was a potential for flaking to occur. They discovered that by increasing the ABV, this could be countered. Ever since, all Bunnahabhain whisky is non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46.3% ABV (where it was 40% before).

Its core range:

  • 12 Year Old.
  • 18 Year Old.
  • 25 Year Old.
  • 40 Year Old; limited to 750 bottles.
  • Toiteach; distilled from peated barley (38 ppm) rather than the typical Bunnahabhain lightly peated style (2 ppm).

Limited Editions:

  • Cruach-Mhòna; Like Toiteach, this whisky is more-than-lightly peated. Travel Retail exclusive.
  • Eirigh Na Greine; This limited edition release contains a significant amount of whiskies of various ages that matured in ex-red wine casks. Travel Retail exclusive.

Distillery info:

Water sourceMargadale River
Owned byBurnt Stewart Distillers

Burn Stewart Distillers Ltd.
Bunnahabhain Distillery
Port Askaig
Isle of Islay, PA46 7RP

+44 (0) 1496 840646

Visitor centreNo
CommunityThe North Star

Distillery Setup:

Mash tun13 tonnes1 (Stainless steel)
Washback66,500 litres6 (Oregon pine)
Wash still35,356 litres2
Spirit Still15,546 litres2
Expected yearly output in LPA (Litres of pure alcohol)2,500,000