I’m going to tell you why I think the people at the Bunnahabhain distillery are psychological geniuses. But first I need to talk about tigers. Indulge me for a moment.
Say you’re walking down your street and you see a tiger in your neighbor’s front yard. It’s unlikely, I know, but Jesus, hang with me; I’m making a point here. So you see this tiger. The unconscious part of your brain that evolution designed to scan your environment locks onto the tiger immediately, drawing your entire focus to it. The tiger takes a step toward you. Your mind spasms and goes ape-shit crazy.
TIGER! A FUCKING GODDAM TIGER! OH DEAR JESUS GOD SAVE ME!
But the tiger, it turns out, is wearing some sort of electric collar and can’t leave the yard. Also its spirit was broken long ago by the asshole suburban idiots who captured it when it was a cub and raised it in their house. So the tiger is tame and can’t get to you and actually it was just hoping you would give it some Chicken McNuggets because it fucking loves those since your dumbass neighbors feed it shit like that.
The next day you see the tiger and it does startle you a bit. But not nearly like the first day. The day after that you walk by and feel no fear at all. In fact, you’re starting to like that your neighbor has a tiger. You’re imagining walking your buddies by their yard and watching them shit their pants while you laugh your ass off.
So you’re totally cool with the tiger now.
Then you notice something else. The neighbors also have an anteater in the yard and a couple of monkeys to boot. You didn’t notice the anteater or monkeys initially because tiger.
And that, my friends, is why the people who make Bunnahabhain scotch are psychological and scientific geniuses and also wizards and craftsmen skilled in the mystical and rarified art of distillation.
Okay I’ll lay it out for you. Islay scotches are the richest, deepest, earthiest, and most robust whiskies currently being made. Period. But the peat taste and smell can get in the way for newbies. You smell that peat and your brain goes crazy, clanging the alarms and warning you. Because peat does not taste like something you should be drinking. Your reptilian brain is not happy about you putting peat in your mouth.
But over time you keep drinking Islay whiskey, and you don’t die. So your reptilian brain settles down, goes back to sleep, and you don’t really notice the peat so much anymore. You LITERALLY do not taste it as much. That shit is science. Your brain absolutely filters things that completely. Once that happens your mind is free to enjoy the earth, the salt, the sea, and other rich complexities of Islay scotch.
In other words, you can enjoy the monkeys because the tiger no longer scares the living shit out of you.
So what the geniuses at Bunnahabhain did was remove the peat. Or more accurately, they just don’t use it. And yet, theirs is an Islay scotch. So it’s something of an outlier.
So what does this mean for you and me?
Well, it means that beginners can access the depth of an Islay scotch and bypass the painful initiation the peat typically imposes on new drinkers. It also prepares the beginner to explore peated scotches later. Bunnahabhain is kind of a gentle, welcoming guide to the Islay region.
“Welcome, friend, to our part of the world. You’re new here, so sit with us and have a gentle dram. Afterwards, we’ll introduce you to some of our peaty neighbors. They aren’t quite as nice and polite as we are, but they have hearts of gold if only you’ll take some time and get to know them.”
See, Bunnahabhain is ALL up in your brain. They got this psychological shit figured out. They’ve been using it for years and you never even knew it. You might as well give up, have a dram of The Bunny, and settle in for the duration. Am I right?