Bunnahabhain, pronounced Bū-na-ha-venn and which is produced on the world-famous Isle of Islay, took double gold for its 12-, 18- and 25-year old single malt whiskies at this years’ San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

The three whiskies were finished using the un-chillfiltered process which represents a return to the traditional way of whisky-making. This new range of un-chillfiltered whiskies recently replaced the 12-, 18- and 25-year-old chillfiltered single malt whiskies that were previously on sale across the globe including South Africa.

Brian Glass, Bunnahabhain’s marketing manager for Southern-Africa, said he was delighted that the entire range received this distinction.

“The process of un-chillfiltering results in whisky in its purest form and it’s quite astounding how much depth of flavour, aroma, colour and character this traditional process imparts to the whisky.

“Bunnahabhain has always been famous for its gentle taste profile and superior quality but with the un-chillfiltered range it seems that the true nature of these whiskies is really coming to the fore,” Glass said.

Un-chillfiltering is the way whisky was made before chillfiltration was introduced in the 1970s for cosmetic reasons. During chillfiltration the temperature of the whisky is dropped to 0°C before forcing it through filters which removes the fatty esters. This produces a “polished” whisky that offers consistency of colour and when bottled at 43% alcohol by volume does not become slightly hazy when chilled. But the trade-off is the loss of some of the flavour and character in the final whisky.

In the case of Bunnahabhain’s un-chillfiltered range, the whisky’s temperature is not reduced and the precious esters are allowed to pass undisturbed through the filters. This results in a full depth of flavour, aroma, colour and character. Although the higher alcohol strength at 46,3% keeps the whisky stable it does become slightly hazy when mixed with water or ice, a distinctive trait of un-chillfiltered whiskies.

Some whisky connoisseurs believe the higher alcohol enhances the character of the whisky. The whisky expert Dominic Roskrow recently wrote about the new un-chillfiltered range that “the extra strength is to the whisky like what High Definition is to television, bringing the oral sensation into sharp focus”.

Unlike most single malts from Islay, Bunnahabhain is crafted from unpeated malted barley and pure spring water untainted by the peaty moorlands.

The whiskies are available at fine liquor outlets and retail for about R530 (12-year old), R835 (18-year old) and R2 200 (25-year old).