Tag Archives: Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old

As mentioned in my recent Bunnahabhain 12 year old review, this Islay distillery is distinctive for not using peat in its core line of whiskies. The age-statement expressions of Bunnahabhain are thus more easily comparable to many of the whiskies from the classic mainland regions of Scotland.

Impressively, all these single malt expressions lack artificial caramel colouring, are non-chill-filtered, and are bottled at a relatively high 46.3% ABV. These choices speak well to the quality focus of the distillery.  As with the 12 yo, this expression is matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks (although the exact proportions are again unknown).

Here is how the Bunna 18 yo compares to similarly-aged expressions in my Meta-Critic database:

Aberlour 18yo: 8.74 ± 0.27 on 11 reviews ($$$$)
Bunnahabhain 12yo: 8.57 ± 0.33 on 15 reviews ($$$)
Bunnahabhain 18yo: 9.01 ± 0.17 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Bunnahabhain 25yo: ± 8.85 0.38 on 13 reviews ($$$$$+)
Caol Ila 18yo: 8.67 ± 0.51 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
GlenDronach 18yo Allardice: 8.71 ± 0.40 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)
Glenfiddich 18yo: 8.57 ± 0.41 on 15 reviews ($$$$$)
Glenlivet 18yo: 8.58 ± 0.19 on 19 reviews ($$$$$)
Glengoyne 18yo: 8.56 ± 0.41 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Highland Park 18yo: 9.12 ± 0.25 on 22 reviews ($$$$$)
Oban 18yo: 8.71 ± 0.21 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Macallan 18yo Fine Oak: 8.80 ± 0.32 on 11 reviews ($$$$$)
Springbank 18yo: 8.96 ± 0.19 on 16 reviews ($$$$$)
Tomatin 18yo: 8.64 ± 0.21 on 8 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see above, it receives the highest score for an unpeated single malt of this age. The 18 yo even scores higher than the 25 yo “bunny”.

I was so impressed on sampling this expression that I quickly went out and bought a full bottle for myself (despite the rather steep $180 CAD price tag at the LCBO).  Here is what I notice in the glass:

Colour: while I don’t normally comment on this (since it can be manipulated), I note that the 18yo is a much richer reddish/brown colour than the 12 yo expression. It clearly shows some extend time in sherry casks (or a higher proportion of sherry casks in the mix).

Nose: Classic sherry notes, with chocolate, raisins, figs and grapes. Has a honeyed sweetness, with some additional plum and apple. Salted caramel, a bit nutty, and with a faint hint of glue (which is oddly not objectionable). All in all, this whisky produces a mouth-watering effect that I typically associate with lightly smokey whiskies that were well-aged in sherry casks. This one is particularly nice, as it seems very rich and creamy (if that is possible to tell by smell).

Palate: All the aromas from the nose are found again on the palate. While not a sherry-bomb, there are a clearly lot of quality casks blended in here – I get rich, creamy cocoa, and a surprising amount of dark fruit. More caramel now too. Malted nuts. Something intriguing, in the way of a light coastal whisky, but with no real smoke or peat (more spicy?). Certainly, a touch of sweet baking spices, like nutmeg and allspice.  Happily, it has none of the bitterness that marred the 12 yo for me somewhat.  An oily and slightly syrupy mouthfeel, very pleasant to swish around the gums. Doesn’t really need any water – very drinkable at its native 46.3% ABV.

Finish: Fairly long, with dried fruits leading the way. A faint, warming allspice contributes as well. There is a slightly salty/briny residue in the end (which pairs well).

Bunnahabhain.18No trouble draining a glass here – a very pleasant whisky, with nothing significant to criticize. Certainly better than most unpreated malts of comparable age that I’ve tried. This one is very close to my favourite “relaxing for the evening” profile, with a hint of salty spice below a bed of fruit and chocolate.

Personally, the 18 yo is well worth the upgrade from the 12 yo expression for me. While many of the core flavours are similar, the quality proposition is high enough here to justify the price bump (again, for me). There is likely more than just extended aging going on – I’m fairly confident they are using a higher quality cask mix here (especially for the sherried component). I’m looking forward to serving this to fans of comparably-aged Glenlivet and Glenfiddich – I’m sure it it will surprise them.

As you can tell from the high average Meta-Critic score – and low standard deviation – reviewers are consistently positive for this expression. For representative reviews, I recommend you check out the guys at Quebec Whisky, Ruben of Whisky Notes, Ralfy, and My Annoying Opinions.

 

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

Bunnahabhain is a Scottish distillery that lies on the north-eastern tip of Islay, just north of Caol Ila. And like its nearest neighbor, most of its expressions are a lot milder than what you would typically associate with Islay (i.e., not smokey or peaty).

The reason for this is that Bunnahabhain apparently doesn’t use peated malt for its core line. At least, that is what is commonly reported online. The distillery website actually drops phrases like “lightly peated” or “minimal peating” occasionally, which is a definitely ambiguous. But most would agree that there is no real peated malt in the core age-statement line. That said, in more recent years, they have started making some heavily peated “Bunnys”, like Ceòbanach and Toiteach.

Here is how Bunna 12 yo fares relative to other unpeated 12 yo single malts:

Aberlour 12yo Double Cask Matured: 8.37 ± 0.17 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Balvenie 12yo Doublewood: 8.45 ± 0.38 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
BenRiach 12yo Matured in Sherry Wood: 8.72 ± 0.23 on 10 reviews ($$$)
Bunnahabhain 12yo: 8.55 ± 0.35 on 13 reviews ($$$)
Cardhu 12yo: 8.11 ± 0.49 on 17 reviews ($$$)
GlenDronach 12yo Original: 8.60 ± 0.24 on 18 reviews ($$$)
Glenfarclas 12yo: 8.62 ± 0.39 on 14 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 12yo: 8.07 ± 0.26 on 21 reviews ($$$)
Glenlivet 12yo: 8.03 ± 0.32 on 18 reviews ($$$)
Glengoyne 12yo: 8.52 ± 0.44 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Redbreast 12yo: 8.80 ± 0.44 on 19 reviews ($$$)

The Bunna 12 yo is sort of middle-of-the-pack here, if you don’t count the ubiquitous entry-level Glenfiddich/Glenlivet malts (which are lighter tasting and rank lower).  Thanks to redditor xile_ for the sample tasted here.

I don’t normally discuss colour (since this can be manipulated), but the Bunnahabhain 12 yo has no colour added and is not chill-filtered (hurrah!). It has a rich pancake syrup colour, indicating a certain amount of sherry cask influence in the mix. Here is what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet, with definite sherry overtones – milk chocolate, raisins and prunes most especially. Overall, very light-bodied though (i.e., this is no sherry bomb). Honey and apple are also prominent. Something vaguely coastal or woody, but no real peat or smoke. Also no nose tingle, or any false notes. Bodes well for what is to come.

Palate: Highland Park-like initially, with sherry sweetness upfront followed by an underlying bitterness underneath (tree bark? coffee?). I normally associate this sort of bitter note with smokey whiskies, but I am not really getting any smoke here. A bit of honey and vanilla. Slightly nutty. Has a relatively light taste and mouthfeel overall, despite the 46.3% ABV. However, a touch of water might help with the underlying bitter note. Decent enough, but not very complex, and nothing to really distinguish it from the competition.

Finish: Some bitter chocolate on the way out, like an unsweetened cafe mocha. The balance is more toward bitter over the sweet (i.e., wood and some dry sherry). Slightly astringent, making you want to sip again.

Bunnahabhain.12Certainly a reasonable and tasty enough dram, but nothing that really stands out for me. It does have more of the dry sherry influence than you get in a typical Highland/Speyside whisky of this age, but none of the smoke/peat of the typical Islays. As such, I find it odd that there is so much bitterness throughout here.

I find the overall Meta-Critic score for the Bunna 12 yo to be reasonable. I would recommend something like the GlenDronach 12 yo for a more full-flavour whisky, or the Redbreast 12yo for higher quality in the same E flavour cluster. The BenRiach 12 yo Matured in Sherry Wood would be a better choice if you want a more sherried (but still delicate) whisky.

Reviewers are reasonably consistent in their view of this whisky. Probably the most favourable one I’ve seen is from Ralfy. One of the lest favourable would be Nathan the Scotch Noob. Oliver of Dramming, Serge of Whisky Fun and Thomas of Whisky Saga all give it fairly typical reviews.