Thanks to /u/Throzen for pouring this dram at a tasting.
Bunnahabhain keeps me scratching my head.
So off the bat you have a malt that was historically unpeated (or typically lightly peated) on the Island of Peat (not to be mixed up with the Island of Pete… that was a mixup that lead to a boring holiday).
Next up it’s easier to get than other Islay out there. Ardbeg will cost you a mint, Kilchoman’s still quite young and the prices are rising, Port Ellen is great if you are allergic to a positive bank account, and Lagavulin is hard to get many different malts (or at least ones that actually say Lagavulin). But you’ll typically find Bunnahabhain on the shelf, with its name on the front, in independent bottlings, and with an age statement, and at cask strength. Even a plethora of casks available.
Finally Bunnahabhain with significant age are out there, able to be picked up.
At the end of the day, it’s all enticing. Small distillery, trying different things, from Islay, peated and not… And yet, historically there’s a ceiling on truly great drams. It can be good, but great? Eh, those are few and far between.
Thus Bunnahabhain 11 Port Pipe Finish Cask Strength showed up in a tasting. Was it peated, or not? Not peated, it turns out, but it’s also bought as a Travel Exclusive. Red flags abound. Younger, unpeated Bunna? Travel Retail, the land of failed experiments and groggy customers?
On the other hand… Well, it’s a cask strength port pipe finished Scotch! That’s peaking my interest, I tell you hu-what (that’s a southern Accent, right?
Price: € 199
Cask type: Port Pipe Finish
Number of bottles: 1578
Colour: 7.5YR 6/8
Nose: Plum jam, oranges, papaya, peanuts, sponge cake
Yup, it’s a port pipe finished Bunnahabhain. You get those rich fruit flavours that remind you of Xmas, taking out any chance of picking up typical cereal notes until water is added. Nutty, rich, vanilla, and fruity.
Taste: Pepper, orange, plum sauce, sea air, taffy, strawberry
Some earthy heat, some salt, and some of those fruits. But it’s not that typical “Bunnahabhain is trying to be Brandy” that I’ve bitterly complained about before (and that the owner of this bottle likes to mock me about).
Instead it’s a mixture of salt, heat, and fruit, and feels like what it is, a port finished Bunnahabhain, and a nice one with lots of flavours.
Finish: Fruit bread, char, heather, raspberry foam, dry dandelion, ginger
Dry, bit of light notes, some barrel impact, some more heat. This is actually quite nice to sip on, and finishes in all the ways you want it to. Yes, some of those ways are somewhat generic to Scotch (looking at you heather), but I’m drinking Scotch, so that’s okay.
Conclusion: Flavourful. An improvement over the standard 12, and an exception to my typical rule of younger Bunna not being my thing. What is my thing? Complexity is what I’d normally say, but if I’m being honest, there were enough Xmas flavours and honey in here that my sugar cravings are satisfied..
This is worth it. That’s something I don’t always say after trying a Bunnahabhain. It’s a worth it OB Travel Exclusive, and probably all gone by now.
Scotch review #1361, Islay review #370, Whisky Network review #2037