So we haven’t found a great Bunnahabhain yet. The closest I’ve had was years ago when I found a 37-year-old one, and even then it was on the cusp between “very good” and “great.”
What does that mean? It means it’s time to amp ourselves up another level. Human’s like sets of 10: A bunch of us use a 10-based number system, so it’s natural for us to celebrate anything divisible by 10, take a break after 10 of something, and align things in dozens (wait a second, one of those is different).
So the same thing happens with whisky: You look to the number in the tens spot. We did something from the 20s (age, not vintage) and two from the 30s, so we’re onto the 40s.
Bunnahabhain 40 1978 Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary is the first on the 40s list, and the first 40-year-old Bunnahabhain I’ve ever had. No joke, my previously oldest Bunnahabhain drank/reviewed was 39-years-old.
So what we have is a single cask Bunnahabhain aged in a refill sherry butt and released as part of Signatory Vintage’s 30th anniversary. I have been lucky enough to try 2 other 30th anniversary releases, and can attest that they are, in fact, tasty.
But we’re talking about Bunnahabhain here: An industrial workhorse distillery that we keep saying it does good, but not great whiskies. Can the 30th Anniversary bump help us here?
Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $1,976 CAD
Vintage: April 3, 1978
Bottled: June 12, 2018
Cask type: Refill Sherry Butt
Cask number: 2587
Number of bottles: 484
Colour: 5YR 3/8
Nose: Cherry soft candy, chalk/mineral, dried papaya, mint, black licorice
Sweet, rich, some earth/mineral, and some spice to really amp it all up. There’s a good amount of sherry influence going on with this whisky.
That said, the minerality is similar to brine we see in younger Bunnahabhain, and the tropical aspects are reminiscent of previous Bunnahabhain. It’s sweeter than I expected on the nose. Very subtle.
Taste: Industrial oil, dried cherry, brined radish, roasted sage, chocolate covered raisins
Wait a second, that’s completely different. Full on Campbeltown/Springbank oiliness takes over like the industrial revolution. Salt, pops of vegetal, more rich cherry, some sage.
If you asked a kid to make Thanksgiving and they used a factory to make it, and then some. Really complex, nicely subtle but still with rich pops of flavour. I’m in heaven.
Finish: Diesel, limestone, musty/dust, cloves, buffalo grass, anise
More industrial notes. Do I know what diesel tastes like? Only based on smelling it and then tasting it when it’s spilled. Don’t chup things from the happy hose at the boom boom roadstop.
Grassy, musty, mineral, industrial, and nice hits of spice. It dissipates wonderfully.
Conclusion: This is a subtle, very earthy Bunnahabhain. In other ways, it’s Bunnahabhain via Springbank, with industrial and savoury paired with fruit notes. It’s still its own thing though. Yes, I like Springbank quite a bit. A lot, actually.
Is that it? It’s just a Bunnahabhain that tastes like Springbank? No, I think this is uniquely’ rich, flavourful, and surprising, which all comes from Bunnahabhain. This is the great Bunnahabhain I was looking for.
But could they get greater? Better-er-er? I don’t know.
Oh, and try this if you can. Very lovely whisky.
Scotch review #1593, Islay review #415, Whisky Network review #2319