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Cry Havoc and Toiteach A Dhà

  • The Whiskey: Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dha
  • Cask Type: Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks
  • Strength: 46.3%

Meaning ‘Smoky Two’ in Scots Gaelic, Toiteach A Dhà (pronounced Toch-ach ah-ghaa) is a sequel to the original peaty paradox on Bunnahabhain’s gentle single malt. To create this Mòine variant, our Senior Blender, Dr. Kirstie McCallum selected a combination of ex Bourbon and Sherry casks which were then matured in full, in our coastal warehouses on Bunnahabhain Bay.

  • The Comic: Cry Havoc vol 1 Mything in Action
  • Image Comics
  • Author: Simon Spurrier
  • Artist: Ryan Kelly (pictures)
  • Colours: Nick Filaedi (London) Lee Loughridge (The Red Place), Matt Wilson (Afghanistan)
  • Letters: Simon Bowland 
  • Design: Emma Price
  • Rated M: Action Adventure / Horror

A Complex and Rewarding pairing:

Pairing Cry Havoc from Image Comics with Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà was not one of the easier whiskey and comic pairings that we came up with. The connection was not obvious, but in the end, this is exactly what made this a great pairing! Cry Havoc is a very different comic, and I mean that in a very complementary way. It jumps Quentin Tarantino style through three different timelines all interwoven and each giving a different part of the story, keeping the reader on their toes and only revealing what is necessary at any given time. These three different timelines also have different people doing the colours, so each looks unique, and helps the reader to quickly identify which part of the story you are in.

Bunnahabhain has long been one of my favourite distilleries, so when the Toiteach A Dhà was released I immediately picked up a bottle. And much like Cry Havoc, it was not at all what I was expecting…and once again, I mean this in the very best and complimentary way possible, because I absolutely L-O-V-E this whisky. 

The Whisky: Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà

Bunnahabhain means ‘mouth of the river’ in Gaelic, and the distillery was aptly named as it stands at the mouth of the Margadale Spring on the shores of the Sound of Islay. The origins of Bunnhabhain can be traced back to1879, when William Robertson of Robertson and Baxter Blending House, joined with the Greenlees Brothers to create the Islay Distillery Company. When the distillery was built on a site close to the Margadale River, in 1883 Bunnahabhain was born.

In the early years, the distillery relied upon the sea trade. Armed only with a small village, a pier and lots of whisky making know-how, Bunnahabhain received supplies by boat and sent adventuring seafarers  back to the mainland along the Sound of Islay with casks of the ‘good stuff’.  This is why the logo for Bunnahabhain is of a sailor at the helm of a ship, paying homage to those original seafarers. Today, you can access the distillery by way of a single track road, nestled in between rolling hills and Bunnahabhain bay.

Single track road used to access the Bunnhabhain distillery

Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà Tasting Notes

When I first put my nose in for a whiff, it certainly didn’t remind me of what I had come to expect from Bunnahabhain. Or did it? It was sweet, with hints of the sherry cask influence that Bunnahabhain is known for, but what jumped out was the peat. Being a fan of all things peaty and smoky, you can imagine my delight when I heard that one of my  favourite distilleries was releasing (or in this case re-releasing) a peated expression.

Now for those that understand Gaelic, you’ll see that the name Toiteach A Dhà means Smoky Two, as in this is the second version of Bunnahabhain’s peated release. And like The Empire Strikes Back, this sequel delivers in spades! While the Toiteach A Dhà is actually the second round of this whisky (with Toiteach being the first which was released in 2008, which seems like forever ago), Toiteach A Dhà is the spiritual successor to the much beloved Ceobanach. And while the Ceobanach was peated, it did not have the distinctive Bunnahabhain characteristics that come from the sherry casks that they are known for. With the Toiteach A Dhà, they’ve found the sweet spot by bringing those two things together in perfect balance to give you a hit of smokiness up front that dissipates into the warm Oloroso influenced finish with a bit of peppery spice. The finish is long and complex and leave a lasting impression.

With a touch of smoke from our peated malted barley introduced during its creation and combined with a higher sherry influence, this special bottling offers the connoisseur an opportunity to try something truly unique and beguiling in nature“.

Bunnahabhain
Image from bunnahabhain.com

The Comic: Cry Havoc

How did we discover this gem of a book? Tim (aka Whiskey Geek 2) was walking through Heroes Comics and saw issue number one just sitting on a shelf and thought “I don’t care what this is about that is gorgeous!” At first glance one might think that this is a werewolf story, but that is too simplistic. Here’s the gist…a nice girl named Lou is a violin playing street performer in London England, busking with her violin and living a relatively care free life, when she is attacked by a werewolf and turned…Lou is also a member of an elite team searching war torn Afghanistan for another shape shifting individual, and those in charge have said that if Lou helps track her down with her new found excellent sense of smell, that they will relieve her of her “gift”… and Lou is also a prisoner of the person she was sent to find, former leader of the special unit turned rogue Lynn Odell. You still with me? Pretty straight forward right?

This is a beautiful book, but it is not for the feint of heart. As described on author Simon Spurrier’s website , Cry Havoc is a mythical/military/modern thriller. But make no mistake, this is also a horror book, with all the blood and gore that one would expect from something in the genre. The incredible artwork by Ryan Kelly is coloured to bring the “gifted” to life, and there are a few pages that made our eyes bulge by the blood and viscera being thrown about. We don’t want to take anyone by surprise, but if you want to see what we mean, take a look at this amazing page which shows one of the gifted going absolutly H.A.M on some soldiers.

“The werewolves of London are chihuahuas compared with the hardier breeds we have out here in the regions. With Cry Havoc Si Spurrier, Ryan Kelly and their ingenious colour and design cohorts unveil an electrifying account of black ops, black dogs and weaponised folklore that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Best in show.”

Allan Moore

Whiskey and Comic Book Pairing:

Reason #1:

So why did we come up with this whiskey and comic book pairing? Well, it’s actually for a couple of reasons. First of all,  it’s the unexpected enjoyment that I had when I first got into both of these. I (Alex aka Whiskey Geek 1), don’t normally jump into comics with a horror bent to them. But upon the recommendation from the more adventurous Tim (aka Whiskey Geek 2), I picked this up and gave it a go. What drew me in immediately was the artwork…all three distinct versions of it. The three main places where the story takes place (London, Afghanistan ,and the Red Place) all have a very unique and different feel from each other, which is helpful as it makes it easier for the reader to orient themselves as to which part of the story they are in. The colours in London are more vibrant and crisp, while those in Afghanistan are, as you might expect, more muted and militaristic, like a film shot with a filter to give everything a grittier look. And the best I can do for the Red Place is that this is the horror part…where the wild things are. It’s a little more bloody (although to be honest there’s plenty of that throughout), but it’s more pronounced here. This is where the main story beats happen, where you discover what the whole point of Lou’s mission was really about.  Using three different colourists for the three different locations in the book worked very well and was a great idea and really helped make the six books flow perfectly. 

Similarly, when I first enjoyed a dram of the Toiteach A Dhà, it wasn’t what I was expecting either. Not that I wouldn’t have tried it anyways…I mean, how many bad Bunnahabhain’s have you had? No really, I’ll wait…yeah, me neither. That being said, it doesn’t taste like a Bunnahabhain, and yet, it kinda does? The smoky peatiness is not a standard for Bunnahabhain, but the Oloroso sherry influence from the casks are present, and that is classic Bunnahabhain. But for me the real star of the Toiteach A Dhà is the nose. I enjoy the nose more than the taste, and this surprised me a little bit. But it just goes to show the many layers that exist with this dram. When you taste it, the smoke is present right up front, and then it dissipates, lingering only at the edges as the sweeter notes mingle in and take the stage, before coming back again for the smooth finish. It’s a Bunnahabhain, that isn’t, but then is again all at the same time. It’s very intriguing and it has quickly become a go to dram for me. 

Lou transforming

Reason #2:

That complexity leads to the second reason for this whiskey and comic book pairing. Cry Havoc is not an easy straight forward comic. Not only does it jump around, it also delves into the notion that myths are real because people believe they are real, and that the zeitgeist will deliver a mythic messiah figure to lead the creatures of legend out from the shadows. I studied political theory and philosophy in university and have read more fantasy novels than I can remember, but this is some fairly esoteric stuff right here. I found myself having to reread certain sections to make sure I was understanding the message and meaning. Again, this is not a complaint as I enjoy being challenged and having to flex my brain muscle a bit while reading comics. It doesn’t all have to be as simple as there are zombies, so kill the zombies (which I also like btw).

The Toiteach A Dhà is also not a straightforward whisky. This is not what I would suggest to someone who wanted a nice easy intro in whisky or even an Islay. There is subtlety and nuance to this dram. It needs a couple sittings to fully appreciate all that is going on in your glass. Like I said above, I could spend the better part of an evening just nosing this whisky and be happy.

So if you want an evening with some depth and complexity, that also has a werewolf, special operations soldiers, and a twist ending, then you should grab a copy of this book, pour a dram of Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà, and enjoy the ride!

Sláinte

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