Bunnahabhain 16 1988 Scott’s Selection

There’s a few distilleries that I lean towards: Some I want to review as soon as I get them, and some I collect a variety of samples together to do in a series.

So what are we up to this time? Much like how one let’s off steam automatically in a nuclear plant, so too do I have to find the Bunnahabhain samples kicking around and do a multi-review. Otherwise… I’ll have a bunch of Bunnahabhain samples sitting around, I guess. And whisky is meant to be drunk, contrary to some shelves that are collecting dust but looking nice.

So since these aren’t bottles of Macallan (ha, gottem!), we’re going to jump in. Now the other reason I do batches of Bunnahabhain is I’m constantly testing a theory that our whisky group has: Bunnahabhain is typically good, though never great.

I know, I know, that’s an absolute and only Siths deal in absolutes, which is generally viewed as a bad thing by the sky monks. What I’ve been searching for has been the Bunnahabhain that breaks the rule. The reason I could say “most Bunnahbhain are good, but very few are great” instead.

So what will we start with? In my case, I started with Bunnahabhain 16 1988 Scott’s Selection. There are some samples as part of this review series that we want to be great: However what is the treasure we were looking for came from the 80s? I mean, it worked for Stranger Things.

So this is a single cask, 16-year-old Bunnahabhain that was bottled at cask strength by Scott’s Selection, which I assume has something to do with the worst episode of The Office (US). Joking, it’s an independent bottler, nothing is as bad as Scott’s Tots.

So is this what we’re looking for? Or just another repeat of our old beliefs? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: $149 (original, it’s since gone up to closer to $280)

Region: Islay

Vintage: 1988

Bottled: 2004

Abv: 53.8%

Colour: 5Y 8/8

Nose: Caramel, mango, brine, roast carrot, grass

Sweet, tropical, salty, a bit smokey/roasty and some grass. Very odd nose. The whole thing starts out sweet, has some brine to amp that up (if you aren’t salting your bake goods then start), and then goes to this vegetal/grassy side.

Very odd, though I’m drawn to it. Probably due to my love of mango flavours.

Taste: Butter, pomelo, brine, taffy, lime

Less earthy, more buttery, still salty, and fruity. Citrus is up front, the caramel is richer, and I’m left with a simpler, more normal dram.

Blind you’d probably guess Bunnahabhain quicker than the nose, given the citrus, the butter, and the brine. Granted I’m bad at blind guesses, so let’s just give me credit for not thinking it’s rum (this is a joke at my own expense).

Finish: Mineral water, mango, charred veggies, ginger

Jumps between hot, bitter, and sweet at the end. There’s some char, some earth, and lots more mango going on. I feel like the finish felt the taste was missing mango specific notes and tried to make up for it all.

Conclusion: A mango heavy, earthy dram that’s confusing and fun and odd. Lots of brine in there too. Very unique dram. I don’t know if I’d want a lot more of it. I love the tropical fruit and the non-Orange citrus taste, and love the mix of brine there too. But I also don’t love the random earthy moments that you can’t ignore.

Candied veggies is just very weird, let’s say, and this sets the standard we’re used to so far: A Bunnahabhain that was unique, good, not bad, and not great. I’d say have a dram of this to really see how weird Bunnahabhain can get.


Scotch review #1589, Islay review #411, Whisky Network review #2315

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