I like Bunnahabhain. But I don’t think I love Bunnahabhain.
There’s a debate that comes up each time we have Bunna at a tasting: It’s good, but is it ever great? And there’re some of us who believe maybe, some who fall into never, and myself, a person in between.
Of course, I’m a reviewer and an ex-marketer and someone with strong comments that makes a fool of himself when he, a mere mortal, is wrong. So I can’t be in between, having a nuanced argument that could change with time! I gotta check it out!
So I grabbed a bunch of reviews of Bunnahabhain to try and change the needle and knock myself off that fence. Come on now, this is the internet! We need to have unflinching opinions that can’t change! Otherwise, we may achieve some sort of happiness or a better world!
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Thanks to /u/throwboats for this dram.
Bunnahabhain Eirigh Na Greine is yet another whisky that uses Gaelic to stop you from ordering it at a bar. Too drunk? Haven’t drank in years? Haven’t grown up in Ireland, Wales, or Scotland? You ain’t getting it right. You’re like me at that one Peruvian restaurant where I made a fool of myself. Still don’t know how to say Arepas.
This used to be travel retail only, however now you can find it everywhere. Sometimes. I don’t know. What I do know is some of the casks that went into it are ex-red wine cask. And red wine casks are cool, as they are similar to sherry casks but can show some subtle differences.
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Cask type: Italian & French Red Wine Casks
Colour: 7.5YR 5/8
Nose: Light brown sugar, mango, orange, milk chocolate, roast spices
Starts out as a typical brown sugar forward Bunnahabhain, some tropical, some chocolate elements and roasty notes. Nothing rough going on, though it could use some balance against the sweet elements.
Taste: Lemon pudding, butter, wax, earth, cashew
More sweet, however balanced with acidity/butter/earth notes this time. Fatty maybe? Oleogustus is supposed to be a term for fat, but they are still working out if it means good fat flavour, so perhaps that isn’t correct.
Finish: Roast spices, lemon, nutty, strawberry, molasses, brine
More roast, nutty, some acidity, some sugar. Probably the most complex/best part of the dram. Nothing goes too nuts (HA!) but I like it.
Conclusion: An alright, nutty and simple Bunnahabhain that deserved better than to be left in the travel retail wasteland. You aren’t going to be blown out of the water, and some may like the standard 12 better, however I found fun aspects to this. Nutty, lemon, but quite sweet. I like sweet so be wary of that. Not for my future diabetes issues, but in case you like less sweets.
Bunnahabhain Sweet & Smoky Cooper’s Choice Sauternes Cask Finish is a bit of an oddball. So this is a NAS peated version of Bunnahabhain, and second, it has a Sauternes cask finish.
Sauternes is a dessert wine, and of the rest of the Bunnahabhain’s I had in this mad rush to make people think “TLDR” this was the only one kissed by the fungal kissed sweet wine. Oh, and it’s peated, but not vatted with unpeated Bunnahabhain. It’s not alone on that but it’s the first so let’s stick to that.
But is there a reason why this doesn’t exist, maybe? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $99 CAD
Cask type: Sauternes Cask Finish
Cask number 4392
Number of bottles 270
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Cocoa, roast peanuts, brine, lime sorbet
Good peat elements come out first, and pretty much take over. I’d say that the Sauternes is adding the strong lime notes and amping up the nutty/roasted aspects from the peat. Impressive that it can .
Taste: Salty peanuts, lemon oil, wax chocolate, charcoal
More salt, more of that nice nuttiness, and some lemon notes. So it was in a Sauternes cask, yay.
Look, I have a bias here. I’m not the biggest fan of Sauternes casks. I am a fan of peated drams though. So while that waxy chocolate note both annoys me and entices me, I’m actually happy for the cask influence here carrying it along.
Finish: Caramel, lemon square, leather, raspberry jam, brine
Wow, that finish is good. This isn’t a simple blah lemon/citrus buggery that isn’t useful, it’s smokey, fruity, and jammy, all at once. There’s a great leather note that I’m a sucker for, good salty notes balancing the sweet, and it just goes on and on.
Conclusion: Man I liked peated whisky. And this works really well, even with a cask I’m not normally a fan of. That finish is bonkers good.
I think the finish took here really well and worked with aspects that were already present and added a needed acidity that meshed really well. The flavour trips a bit but frankly, the finish makes up for it. I’m very happy to have split a bottle of this, something I didn’t think I’d ever say about another ex-Sauternes finished whisky again.
Thanks to /u/kinohead for sharing this with me.
Bunnahabhain 4 Peated Battlehill showed up at a tasting I was at, and kinohead pointed out I should save some liver room for it. He and I don’t have as much time to hang out, and when we do I take his whisky tastes seriously because he knows his shit.
So this is a four-year-old peated Bunnahabhain. Simple as that. Young, barely legal Scotch that was in an ex-bourbon cask. With enough drank from it to prove it wasn’t terrible.
So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Number of bottles: 1,152
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: BBQ sauce, raspberry, mineral, stone fruit, beef
Yup, that’s peated. Pretty simple after you get past the molasses/acidity/smoke show, it shows the youth. Water brings out more of that. Salty, beefy, generic fruit.
Taste: Pepper steak, heat, anise, peanut
Meaty, hot, young, spice and nutty. Starting to come to the conclusion nutty is part of the Bunnahabhain spirit. But wow this is just a peat storm mostly.
Finish: Molasses, thyme, caramel, anise, butter
Sweet, herbal, spice and butter. Doesn’t last long.
Conclusion: Solid, if simple. It would be nice if you’re looking for an everyday strong peated malt. I’m frankly surprised they got this much from a four-year-old dram. Simply put it’s a peated dram that won’t break the bank, plays off that smoke and has a tiny bit more going on. It’s what you’d want from Bunnahabhain being a factory dram. If you can, go for it.
Thanks to /u/CatharticIntent for pouring me a sample of this whisky.
Bunnahabhain 7 2008 Duncan Taylor Octave comes from the Duncan Taylor Octave line, which is… interesting, to say the least.
The idea is to use a smaller cask for a second maturation, thus giving more wood contact and a faster second maturation.
Suffice to say it’s an interesting idea, though typically each time someone’s attempted to speed up whisky we’ve been left with brown vodka with a wood aftertaste and some extra burn. However I’ve also had some luck with octaves, and it is a finish, not a full maturation in the octave cask. So we have a younger Bunnahabhain that’s been finished in an ex-sherry octave.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: $100 CAD
Stated Age: 7-years-old
Cask Type: Sherry Octave Cask Finish
Colour: 7.5YR 4/6
Nose: Strawberry, caramel, orange, brine
Fruity, if simple. Lots of sherry cask influence on the nose. Almost nothing but. Some brine with the water, however beyond that this isn’t really distinguishing itself as Bunnahabhain.
Taste: Raspberry, caramel, brine, milk, apple
More sherry, creamy flavour. The salt is still there, and it gets a really bitter apple flavour with water.
Finish: Orange vitamin c tablets, black pepper, ginger, tannins
And more bitterness, and nothing but bitterness, and tons of bitter notes. Some heat, mostly bitterness.
Conclusion: Bitter, simple, not really doing much for me. It’s sherry flavoured, and certainly not brown vodka with an oak note, though there’s really not much beyond the bitter/sherry notes.
I can’t say I hated this, but I’m happier I only had a sample over a full bottle as I like to have some whisky elements in my sherry… wait, do I have that backwards? You could probably use it as a daily dram given the price/flavour, otherwise I’d skip.
Thanks to /u/EvilAFI for this sample
Bunnahabhain 10 2001 Wilson & Morgan Sherry Wood is a bit of a change from the previous one: Also independently bottled, not cask strength, but full maturation in a cask closer to the size you’re used to getting Scotch from.
But that cask strength side may be hurting it. Or maybe it’s just being a jaded whisky snob who’s not used to having a normal whisky. Perhaps this will change my mind?
Cask Type: Sherry Wood
Colour: 10YR 6/8
Nose: Plum, caramel, lemon, papaya
Okay, fruit. Light fruit, some tropical aspects and sweet notes. Actually it’s mostly just fruit and hard to pick up anything else.
Taste: Grape, cinnamon, caramel, brine
More sherry influence. Some lighter bits, some spice… Oh, wait, it’s Bunnahabhain, there’s some salt.
Finish: Ginger, red berries, sugar, cloves
More sherry influence, and that’s it. I’m not going to pretend there’s anything else going on here. The sherry took over and I’m assuming the cask was wet as heck.
Conclusion: Simple sherried dram. Nothing else going on. It’s really similar to the one above, albeit less going on because it’s not cask strength.
So at the end of the day, we had two sherried Bunnahbhains where the sherry took over too much. One used an octave finish to get there and one used the full maturation. I’d probably keep the first one over the second, however in the end you’re going to end up with a strong sherry and something light to drink.
Thanks to /u/devoz for pouring this dram for me.
Bunnahabhain 10 2009 Adelphi (Cask 900023) immediately catches your eye because… well, look at how dark and beautiful that sucker is. Either someone was running around dumping e160 like dollas at the rippers or that was one wet-as-fuck sherry cask… also like being at certain rippers (shout out to Montreal, hope you survive the pandemic you dirty city).
Where was I? Oh, yeah, young, cask strength Bunnahabhain that was poured into a sherry cask that seemingly still was full of beautiful ochre sherry. How did it work out?
Price: € 170
Cask type: 1st Fill Sherry
Cask number 900023
Number of bottles: 695
Colour: 2.5YR 1/4
Nose: Cherry, papaya, treacle, chlorine, hazelnut, blueberry, toasted malt
This doesn’t ease you into it. Immediate rich sweet notes, strong fruit notes, and nuttiness and some almost chemical/pool notes. Fuck coffee, this will wake you up and put you back to sleep in 2 minutes flat.
Water opens up more fruit and a lovely toasted/malty note.
Taste: Orange vinaigrette, hazelnut, butter, cherry/almond
Acidic, nutty, buttery. Lots of depth of flavour plays up the sherry influence a lot and gets you right in the acid part of the tongue, which our teacher lied to us and said was the middle, I think.
Finish: Cherry, cardamon, anise, hazelnut, chemical, dark molasses
More heavy sherry influence, a bit of chemical aspect that isn’t too bad actually. Granted I grew up eating candies with that flavour so maybe I’m in the minority.
Strong, rich sherry note, lots of spice, still feels like a whisky with the spices and some of the brown sugar notes.
Conclusion: Rich, heavily sherry influence but not too much to erase the malt beneath. Lots of fun to drink. There’s going to be some who’ll want more salt maybe, or maybe more Bunnahabhain influence. However, for me, this took a different direction with lots of fruit, rich molasses notes and a good hit of toasted malt beneath.
Suffice to say it lives up to the initial surprise you get from seeing it. I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but I’m only human and holy damn that’s a dark malt. So check it out, and grab if you see it.
Bunnahabhain 10 2007 Moine Feis Ile 2018 is an everyday dram that you get each day. I’m sure each and every person reading this has come across it.
And like that, I’m writing in a sarcastic way.
So yeah: If you made it for Feis Ile, or battled the auctions, you ended up with this, a 500ml Oloroso cask strength that was so good they could select it for the biggest whisky/jazz festival in Scotland for the year.
But with the Auctions, the hype… and well, sounding like a broken record here, is it worth it? You’re paying a lot for a small bottle. Is it worth it? I mean, it’s only 11 years old, right?
Well whisky can surprise you, let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 229
Cask type: Oloroso
Number of bottles: 1881
Colour: 5YR 2/6
Nose: Salted peanut, raisin, brown sugar, sod, cherry, hazelnut
Standard nutty, salty, and brown sugar, aspects of the sherry adding earth, vegetal, and raisin, and then more and more and more of that. And more, and more, and even more-er-er.
Very strong nose, in other words, but totally everything you’d expect.
Taste: Strawberry ice cream, button mushroom, lemon juice, molasses, cranberry
Bit different here, the lighter fruitiness has some creaminess to it, there’re nice aspects of the sherry going on with the brown sugar aspects. Hits the sherry hard, however is different enough from other sherry bombs that I give that a pass.
Finish: Anise, salt/oyster, dry pear, peaty, walnut, cranberry
Long finish. Super nutty, the sherry heavy aspects are much more subdued, the salt is super strong, and the fruit/peat/nutty aspects add a lot of depth. Don’t think the sherry is completely gone either.
Conclusion: Strong, lovely dram that I’d be happy to walk away from Feis Ile with. Anyone who sold this on an auction better have made some nice money because this is a really, really good Bunnahabhain. Even at a premium it would have been worth it. And not that limited, so I can’t see it going for a lot.
That said, it deserves it. It’s well balanced and shows off the best aspects of both Bunnahabhain and Oloroso. This is a must grab, easily, unless you somehow hate nuts, fruit, brown sugar, salt, and life.
Thanks to /u/smoked_herring for the mystery sample.
Bunnahabhain 12 2007 (Cask #589) Signatory Vintage Cask Strength came out of left field. I had most of these written up, I was ready to go, and bamo, some really nice guy hands me a mystery that he knows I haven’t had.
Which frankly after having these Bunnahabhain over and over, kudos to him.
So I don’t know what I’m drinking here. The whole time. Did I figure it out? Spoiler? No, not at all.
But it certainly helps the multi-review. Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: € 111
Cask Number: 589
Cask Type: First Fill Sherry Butt
Distilled: February 13th 2007
Bottled: October 10th 2019
Colour: 5YR 5/10
Nose: Honeycomb, cardamon, cereal, pear, cocoa
Some spice and cocoa on the nose, but really there’s this waxy/honey/cereal note that’s super strong. Water opens up more of the first-fill sherry notes, so if you’re looking for that, water is your friend.
Also, water is normally your friend if you need to stay hydrated and not die. I hear that helps with life.
Taste: Orange juice, cinnamon, daisy, malt, anise, chocolate
Good fresh citrus taste, more of the spice, and even some interesting floral notes. Water brings out more spice, some malt… Really quite nice.
Seriously I’m not really getting an overpowering note of sherry or that core Bunnahabhain nuttiness. Instead, it’s malted and spice and chocolate.
Finish: Vitamin C tablet, brine, leafy, ginger, mushroom
This finishes with lots of mineral and earth. I’m typically pretty picky and diva-esque about bitter notes, so it’s a surprise I really liked this finish. Something about it just worked at the end.
Conclusion: Buttery, briney, no idea there was sherry in here. The whole thing tastes like a Speyside, specifically a Glenrothes. And it tastes way older than it is. And really tastes like more cask types went into this.
What I’m saying is: Who fucked somebody at Bunnahabhain to get this out the door? This should have been in the distillery shop being sold 200ml at a time. This is a buy, but only if you’re looking for a non-Bunnahabhain.
Guess: Glenrothes, 17-19, 50%, ex-bourbon/sherry finish
Actually: Bunnahabhain 12 2007 (Cask #589) Signatory Vintage Cask Strength
Thanks to /u/throwboats for this sample.
Bunnahabhain 12 2004 Moine Brandy Finish is a pretty simple idea to get your head around. Take peated Bunnahabhain. Age it for less than 12 years, then finish it in a brandy cask. Got it? We don’t see brandy casks, we don’t know how peated Bunnahabhain is going to affect it, let’s serve it at cask strength and charge a premium because we got… holy hell, 4,152 bottles?
Alright… maybe there was more than one cask this time. Just maybe.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: € 210
Cask type: Brandy Cask Finish
Number of bottles: 4152
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Hot apple cider, cereal, anise, fresh baguette
Immediate apple note with lots of hot spices to back it up. There’s a lot of bread/cereal notes going on, and water calms down the other spices and brings out more anise.
Taste: Apple, cinnamon, yeast, rich caramel, crackers
More hot apple cider, like you’re out at an orchard taking pics for the gram. That’s how kids talk, right?
More of that yeast, more spices, and more cereal.
Finish: Basil, caramel, lime black pepper chips, mint jellies, cocoa
Some vegetal and acidic notes, strong heat to it all, and the peat has taken on a sweet/cocoa aspect. But it’s all over the place and tastes like what happens when you attempt to eat like Elf from the movie Elf.
Conclusion: Odd and apple focused. Good for winter. I don’t know if I liked this, at the end of the day. There’s were dry, yeast forward cereal notes, tons of apple, and a finish that was confusing.
There’s someone out there who really will enjoy this, who’ll see this as the complex mess of their dreams. For myself, even with my love of bread and winter drams, it didn’t wow me. But I wouldn’t turn down trying a future version of it.
Bunnahabhain 12 Palo Cortado Single Cask Distillery Exclusive is yet another 12-year Bunnahabhabin, however, we’ve changed things up again: Palo Cortado casks.
For the whisky nerds among us who don’t pay too much attention to other booze (myself sometimes included), Palo Cortado could be the name of a distillery, a wine we don’t know about, some guys name. From what I googled (please correct me if I’m wrong) I found it’s a type of sherry that should be Amontillado on the nose and Oloroso in the mouth.
So like me: Exciting in my writing, really excited to become an accountant in reality.
Joking aside, this was another distillery exclusive. So another one of those “if you’re lucky to show up when it’s there” times.
Was it worth it? Should you pay a high amount for a third of a bottle? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: €69 for a 200ml
Cask type: Palo Cortado
Cask number 16
Colour: 5YR 4/8
Nose: Rich plum, ginger, raisin, cashew, lemongrass, ginger, brown butter
The nose has a rich sherry note closer to PX than Oloroso. So think plums over strawberries, or as I call them, a tasty fruit that pales in comparison to a lot of other ones.
Good grassy note, lots of elements I’d associate with Pho (ginger, lemongrass, ginger again seemingly, some nuttiness). Maybe I’m off base there. I think I can say it’s rich and interesting on the nose.
Taste: Rich caramel, almond, anise, quince, lemon sorbet, white raspberry
Bit rough, there’s some odd notes of floral, strong acidity, and strong spice, mixed with really strong caramel and nuttiness. I’m really getting more of the malt character going on here. It’s really hard to parse out. It’s nearly there.
Finish: Lemon pith, hard candy, anise, brown sugar, coffee, birch sap
Rough aspects, the citrus isn’t as smooth, the sugar is really rough, and the anise/birch sap can trip you up. However, seriously, this keeps evolving. It needs time, patience, and while I still stand by saying it’s kinda a mess, I’m liking it after a bit.
Conclusion: Rough though complex. Not quite there, but really interesting and has fun with citrus. Overall liked it, though there were elements that threw me off at times. Like the rough sugar or some of the anise. But there were floral elements or coffee aspects or interesting fruit.
So like the one before this, you’ll either really like it or feel it wasn’t for you. Pure and simple this could have had more time in the cask and come out more refined. Or maybe not, maybe it would have lost those aspects.
Thanks to /u/smoked_herring for this dram.
Bunnahabhain 12 PX Single Cask Distillery Exclusive is… okay, getting kinda repetitive here, aren’t we? Yeah, it’s a distillery exclusive, it’s a sherry cask, and you had to be on Islay when they had it. Does it make this review silly? No, because there’s a weird chance you’re there, right now, as I write this, or as you read this. And you’re like “what do I buy” and I’ll just say “drink the stuff in front of you and get off your phone nerdlinger”.
Also, the question comes up again: Do you plan to visit the distillery, do the exclusives tie into that decision, and is it worth showing up? Well due to a constant pandemic I can’t go there, but I can taste things and write about them. So let’s do that then, shall we?
Price: £49 for a 200 ml
Cask type: Pedro Ximenez Butt
Cask number 1635
Colour: 2.5YR 4/10
Nose: Rich raisin, toffee, ginger, cherry, orange, brown sugar
Obvious sherry influence going on. Lots of raisin, toffee, some ginger (not too many other spices), brown sugar, fruit. You know, what you were expecting.
Taste: Raisin, ginger, orange, brine, melon/peach, caramel
Hey, more sherry bomb. Nothing with anise or cinnamon, some of the caramel/brine of the Bunnahabhain actually comes out here, along with some stone fruit/generic melon notes. In other words, it’s a sherry bomb but sherry hasn’t married your buddy and made it so she can’t come out anymore.
Finish: Toffee, anise, orange, papaya, peanuts, chilli pepper, cinnamon
Hey, we get a bit more here: Bunnahabhain nuttiness, some heat, some spice other than ginger, some heat other than ginger (again), and more tropical fruit.
Conclusion: Sherry bomb. Pure and simple, I was hoping for a bit more, however, it comes off at first like too much sherry. Yes, more of the malt comes out with time. I wanted more diverse spices, more fruit notes, and more of the whisky at the front.
I can’t really say I’d walk out with this over the others. Maybe as a completionist, or if you miss some of the really amazing cask strength sherry bombs of times past (think late 40s Aberlour A’Bunadh batches or Macallan Cask Strength) but it didn’t really bring the complexity until the end when it limped up to say hello.
So I know what you’re saying: Come on, change it up. No more 12-year Bunnahabhain’s from the distillery only. And good news, I have something different for you:
Bunnahabhain 13 2004 Moine Single Cask Distillery Exclusive. Yup, it’s a peated 13-year distillery exclusive. You’re welcome. I know, I’m amazing and humble and have amazing abilities well beyond my years. Not to mention humble and not ever repeating myself.
So peated dram with an Oloroso sherry finish. Will it be better or worse than others that came after it? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 75 for a 200ml
Cask Type: Oloroso Finish
Cask number AR13000007
Colour: 2.5YR 3/8
Nose: Cocoa, peanut, salt, plum, anise
Bit of a shy nose. The peat is holding up to the shorter sherry finish, so you get more of the malt coming out while getting more of what I’d expect from a PX sherry cask versus an Oloroso one.
Taste: Roasted peanuts, brine, vegetal, orange
More of the malt influence here. Nutty, no strong peat notes beyond vegetal aspects. It is nice to have something that isn’t super sweet.
Finish: Salt, cherry, cinnamon cracker, sunflower oil, caramel
Dry, very dry. Some of that earlier cracker, the sherry has ramped up, and… Well, I mean, I think we can say these are slow burns, and it isn’t until the finish that you get the full picture.
Conclusion: Dry, needed a bit more time in the cask. I’m not loving the sheer amount of time it took for this to wake up. Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s showing off a good, lightly peated malt. But is it doing much more than others above? Not really. I’m not getting too much.
Yes, the finish is good. So are others. So if you have a time ship to go back to the past to bang your mother or whatever people do with that, or if you’re buying something from an auction in I guess what’s a more likely event, I don’t think I’d recommend this one Marty.
Thanks to /u/devoz for sharing this.
Alright, we’re changing tact here. Imagine you had two ex-bourbon barrels of 15-year-old peated Bunnahabhain. And you didn’t have to go to the distillery to buy it. And both of these are nice, but you think they’d be good together, so you vat them together. And then you release them.
But peated Bunnahabhain is different than non-peated (duh), so you name it after the name of a local river. Enter Bunnahabhain Margadale Elements of Islay – MA 3. They’ve done this two times before (not shown here, I’m only mortal).
But TOModera, I hear you say at your screen in a weird moment speaking to your screen, if it’s not an OB and not a distillery exclusive, is it good? Well let’s see, shall we?
Price: $117 New Zealand Dollars
Cask type: Two ex-bourbon barrels
Number of bottles: 734
Colour: 7.5Y 9/8
Nose: Hot, roast corn, caramel, orange
Vegetal, some hot/metallic notes, and citrus and caramel. A bit shy on the nose… I’m seeing a scary pattern here that we’ve seen in the past few reviews and I’m all jazzed up about it.
Taste: Orange, cinnamon, caramel, apple, smoke, anise
Acidity, spice, good apple notes and a nice amount of smoke. Grows more and more. Nothing in here is going to blow your mind, but it’s all working so nicely with one another like it’s supposed to.
And not just in whisky. Gotta work together people.
Finish: Apple, smoke, coal, oak, banana, grass
More apple, more smoke, and some tropical fruit and grass as well. Well balanced, sweet and smoky.
Conclusion: Solid, fruit and smoke. Love to keep sipping on. It’s really fun to have. Really if you’re a fan of peated whisky you’re going to enjoy this. Is it going to blow your mind? No. It’s peated whisky, I’m a peat head, I had to bring down my score because… yeah, biases.
Apple, smoke, fruit, grass, and roast corn. If that doesn’t get your goat going then your goat may be sick.
Thanks to /u/CatharticIntent for sharing a dram of this.
I like Cadenhead’s. Why? Because they seem to be really good at picking casks. At the least whiskies I’ve had. So did they pick a Bunnahabhain well?
Bunnahabhain 16 1999 Cadenhead’s Single Cask is one such pick. Finished for 2 to 3 years in a Sherry Hogshead, at cask strength, and don’t seem to be fussing with it too much.
I’m a bit worried about a finish, however, at least it has a few years. So maybe? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 114
Cask type: Finish in sherry Hogshead since 12/2013
Number of bottles: 276
Colour: 5Y 8/10
Nose: Juicy mango, mint, ginger, buttered popcorn, salt
Tropical. Immediate fruit, spice, some butter, some grain, some salt (which I’ve heard go together). It’s quite the taste combination. Movies should serve something like this. I think it would catch on.
Taste: Brown butter, grapefruit, earth, orange juice, salt
Wow, that’s a lot of grapefruit. I was not expecting that, somewhat like grapefruit for breakfast, which I never expect because I’m not an exercise junky living in the 80s.
Good salt, nice nuttiness/more butter, and some earth. But hot damn is this tart.
Finish: Grapefruit, salt/mineral, herbal
Grapefruit has taken over. There is only grapefruit. Hide your parents if they are on cholesterol medication.
Conclusion: Grapefruit bomb, if that’s a thing. Odd, there’s someone out there with this as their kink and that’s cool. I’m kinda sad because that nose should have lead to this tropical butter fun time and like most orgies, it just lead to the taste of 50-year-old tastebuds in your mouth.
If you love grapefruit or acidic/tart heavy drams with salt, then great. I’ll be over here, not putting down Cadenhead’s but choosing to skip their breakfast’s in the future.
Bunnahabhain 20 1991 Duncan Taylor Dimensions was poured for me blind. And then I poured it for myself not blind, not yet knowing I had drank it, and reviewed it. The below is an amalgamation of those reviews.
The question a lot of people have is simply this: It’s a 20-year-old Scotch that was (many years ago) priced lower than you’d expect. Is it a hidden gem? Maybe it took too long to get to this point? Or perhaps someone at Duncan Taylor is just really good at finding good deals.
Let’s see if we should be shopping with DT, shall we?
Price: $117 USD somewhere
Cask Type: Oak cask
Cask number 5367
Number of bottles: 252
Colour: 2.5Y 8/12
Nose: Hazelnut, cherry, musty sweat, ginger, brine, vegetal
So we start with the traditional nuttiness and some salt from Bunnahabhain, spice we’re getting used to, and what I’m going to assume is a sherry cask in there.
Gets a bit down on the sweat here, quite musty. Not really inviting. Wish it had something to pair with it, like more fruit or some cream.
Taste: Cinnamon, brine butter, heat, grapefruit
Okay, the musk is gone, creamy and buttery, more grapefruit (fuck, no again), and some heat. It’s almost meshing, and I like the butter/salt note evolution, but… man, grapefruit is just done for me I think.
Finish: Apple, brown sugar, brine, sweat, heather, dry pear
Yet again we’re seeing a finish that’s trying to make up for the rest. Yes, there are still more salt and sweat going on, but there’s also floral, pear, and apple and brown sugar. Like you over-salted the roast but then you made a decent apple cobbler.
This tastes a lot younger than you’d guess.
Conclusion: Odd, salty and stone fruit but tastes young. On a second tasting, the nose was more pungent, the sweat note was strong, and it was creamier. I think the bottle being open really affects this one. The second time was more of a stinky dram that had a strong taste, and the first time was a simpler, if odd, whisky with less tropical notes.
All in all it’s odd but you don’t really need a full bottle. The finish is bringing the score up (may as well name the whole post that soon). There’s something going on and they eventually just said “screw it, bottle it” and gave it as a cheap whisky. It’s a skip from me, but the score won’t totally represent that because the finish was still nice.
Guess: Something odd like Campbeltown Pineau des Charentes cask?
Actually: Bunnahabhain 20 1991 Duncan Taylor Dimensions
Bunnahabhain Adelphi Liddesdale Islay Batch 10 used to be it’s own thing, a mystery… up until Batch 4 when everyone and their daffy Aunt figured out it was a Bunnahabhain. So it’s 21 years old, but the vintage I’ve found says 1990. So we have a vatting, that’s not cask strength, that was aged in sherry casks.
But we saw something similar before, a 20+ Bunnahabhain that’s a bit cheaper. And this one isn’t cask strength. People seem to really enjoy it though… let’s see if I do, as I too scream my review into the void hoping just one person sees one letter of one word of it.
Price: € 145
Cask Type: American Oak Sherry Hogshead
Number of bottles: 1011
Colour: 10YR 5/8
Nose: Brown sugar, guava, cereal, brine, woody
Sweet, bit of tropical fruit, cereal, and brine.
Yup, it’s a Bunnahabhain. We’re all done here, wrap it up!
Bit woody. Takes some time, but there’s nothing too rough on the nose.
Taste: Honey, nutty, brine, ginger
Honey, Bunnahabhain nuts (deez is tasty), some spice, some brine. Yup, it’s Bunnahabhain. Glad they started just saying it because the profile certainly has.
Finish: Wood, peach, vegetal, orange rind
More wood, more acidity and some of that vegetal aspect. Might be a bit rough but certainly changes things up at this point, gives you a new dimension. And hey, didn’t keep it all for the end again, so that’s new.
Conclusion: It’s okay. You can grab this, be “that guy” who sips on a 21-year-old Scotch without breaking the bank, your non-whisky nerd friends will like aspects of it, and it’s not bad. Is it going to be the greatest whisky ever? No. I’m going to say enough people have had this, it’s not offensive, it gets people paying Adelphi so I can try more of their single casks, and for all that, I’m totally fine with it.
Time to go up another level. We’re onto older, more pricy expensive older Bunnahabhain.
Bunnahbhain 25 1991 Old Particular Douglas Laing K&L Exclusive isn’t something you’re going to see all over the place. The XXV OB will show up with its sleek design and that feeling of sameness that feeds social media.
But this one? 208 bottles, bottled just for Douglas Laing that was exclusive to K&L. I’ve spoken before how I’m not totally sure about the person(s) picking single casks for K&L, not in a “I’m worried all the cats in the neighbourhood go missing when they are near that person’s place”, more in that “gee I don’t think I look for the same things as you in whisky” way.
But maybe this will be different. Let’s see, shall we?
Cask type: Refill Hogshead
Cask number DL 12130
Number of bottles: 208
Colour: 5YR 3/8
Nose: Violets/plum jam, brine, beef broth, grass
Immediate floral and plum notes. Yes, this is still Bunnahabhain with it’s grass and brine and the bippin and the boppin… but the main aspects are this strong umami and a floral note. Very different than before.
Taste: Smarties, beef, violets, nori, honeydew melon, brine, powder candy
The brine shows up with water, falls apart a bit with water too. So I enjoyed the floral notes and the step up in salt notes, but then water came in and it’s just really sweet in that powder candy way, but also with salt.
So it’s hard to say if you should add water. It’s an interesting changeup.
Finish: Candied lime, mineral, manure, red licorice, caramel
Holy damn, lime that’s really strong and salty, with some farmy/sweet notes. Doesn’t fall apart once the water comes in, and gives you some sweets for the water, like some terrible version of Halloween in the Sahara.
Conclusion: Bunnahabhain, but if it was made in the Lowlands. Which if you’ve followed me around and stalked me, you know I love a Lowland or three. Lime, salt, and floral. Water changes it a bit, mostly the taste, and not so much for the better. Was this as complex as other 25-year-old whiskies? No. Is it as good as XXV? No, and you’ll get less fake internet points and therefore hate yourself more.
But does it taste like a really nice Lowland? Heck yeah, and if you’re like me, that’s worth grabbing.
Bunnahabhain 27 Single Malts of Scotland is a marriage of 4 refill hogsheads, youngest of which is 27 years old. Oh, and it’s all cask strength. Nuff said, right?
Well, who knows. I’ve reviewed a few older Bunnahabhains, and I’m still not totally sold. Is this going to be another one of those “meh” ones, or finally the Bunna that changes my… mind-a?
Look, I just came off a few weeks of class and a major project while working, we’re lucky I can even write some English at the moment.
Price: € 240
Cask type: A Marriage of 4 Refill Hogsheads
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Creamy mango pudding, cardamon coffee, warm brine, Smarties, sweat
Tropical, creamy, and opens up to a fruity/citrus coffee flavour. The salt has some heat to it, and water brings out sweat, which i guess makes sense on some level.
There are some sweet spikes in there that may throw you off.
Taste: Peach turnover, caramel, limeade, graham cracker, mineral, coffee
Buttery. Very butter heavy. Still has the good coffee and acidic notes though I think more of those sweets notes are taking over.
Standard mineral, butter, and cereal notes from Bunnahabhain, though the “wow” portions are the coffee, and of course the butter.
Finish: Nectarine, brown butter, cumin, cassia buds, vanilla pudding
More butter, more stone fruit, some start to the complexity with really interesting spice and strong creamy vanilla notes.
Conclusion: Nice, butter heavy. I was kinda hoping for more given the age, however, it’s alright to sip on. There’s the beginning of complexity and some nice notes. I think if you picked this up you’d be fine with it. There’s just enough to avoid any FOMO, and it hits about the same as similar older Bunnahabhains.
That all said, compared to similarly aged Scotch? It’s missing a few marks for complexity. Doesn’t quite make the landing. We hope it comes back in four years to try for the gold again.
Bunnahabhain 28 1988 Alexander Murray & Company Cask Strength shows, and I pause. Yes, it’s a non-single cask release, at cask strength, decent age, and all from ex-Bourbon Casks. I don’t just pause because of what I just said about older Bunnahabhain.
Alexander Murray & Company isn’t an independent bottler I run into a lot. I do see it pop up, the price is lower. Yes, I know that price doesn’t equate quality. This entire list is proof of that alone. Hell, I had to study actually scientific reports on it and know it when I tried to become a marketer, right before I was informed having human emotions means I wasn’t a good one.
Where was I? Well, I don’t know what to think about this whisky. Let’s put it in my face hole to see, shall we?
Price: € 360
Cask type: Bourbon Casks
Colour: 2.5YR 4/8
Nose: Treacle, banana, basil, lemon juice, graham cracker, fruit leather
Caramel, tropical fruit, and a leather/fruity note. I… don’t hate this. Sure, it’s a bit simple, but that leather note and the strong caramel notes are quite nice. Good mixture of fruit, no rough notes.
Taste: Corn syrup, brine, spiced apple pie, sand, blueberry, plantains
Ok, so let’s get the rough thing out of the way: First sip here is rough and simple. Very rough and simple. That goes away. Water certainly helps
Finish: Plum pudding, brine, dry pear, caramel, powdered ginger, raspberry, banana
Rich, salty, some more balance with some cheaper, powder-y flavours. It jumps between a rich, “I assume I paid a lot for a buttery dessert” flavour to a simpler, “I used too much powdered ginger and now it feels like sand in my mouth” flavour.
That said, wow this is complex. Lots of fruit going on, different levels of acidity, funkiness, tartness, and that rich butter is a personal favourite. Queue sounds of my pants concerned for their waistlines being stretched.
Conclusion: A Caramel-heavy, complex but somehow cheaper tasting. I kept bouncing back and forth on this one. Is it that I associate Alexander Murray whiskies with being less expensive and expected that? Maybe. However more so this had moments of simpler flavours intermingled with complexity.
It drags it down, however all in all this is a bottle you’d want to have around.
Scotch reviews #1259-77, Islay reviews #339-63, Whisky Network reviews #1912-30