Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Bunnahabhain: solidly doing what everybody else does

Are there any Mad Men fans among my readers? Then you might remember that scene about how to promote cigarettes from a certain brand. The advertising masters interview the ciggie makers about their product. And they answer, with all the things that theirs but also competitors’ products have in common. But who puts general practice on a label as if it is something special? So, they come up with the tag line “It’s toasted”. Brilliant scene. Because of that we can forgive Donald Draper (portrayed by the fantastic Jon Hamm) for drinking so much Canadian Club in that show.

Bunnahabhain came up with their own variant for “It’s toasted”. They choose “Small Batch Distilled”. As if not any other malt distillery does that. Beautiful eh!? I always had a weak spot for Bunnahabhain. The name, the remote location on Islay, the captain ‘westering home’ on the label, and the fact it is a different beast than all the others because of their unpeated style. Loved that malty, dry and dirty style quite a lot.

In recent years they have quite given other Islay distilleries a run for their money by releasing the impressive Staoisha variant, which is delightfully peated. There is also peated output under the name Mòine, but I don’t actually know if that is still used. It was the original name for peated Bunnahabhain when they started producing this style in 1997.

But at one point I also lost interest a bit, somewhere around the time they switched to their current livery. I tasted many – unpronounceable – expressions and they were all good, not great. Leading to having not a single bottle of Bunnahabhain in my collection at this moment. Bonnington, yes! Abhainn Dearg, also. But no Bunnahabhain. Decent independents most times go beyond my price range. But then, at the time of writing the first part of this blog, the news came from my local retailer that Bunnahabhain was featured in the Small Batch Editions. Again that small batch… they’re on to something! Anyway, I bought the bottle, let’s taste it, for comparison reasons.

Bunnahabhain 12 years old, bottled at 46,3 % abv

Makeup: So, again, small batch distilled and bottled at the rather excentric 46,3 %. Matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

General impressions: Alright, alright, opens quite sherried indeed. A bit heavy actually, I mean substantial, with overripe dades, plums, and apricot. Very crystalline sherry indeed. I remember earlier batches, but really from a few years ago, to be much dirtier. Sulphury. But I rejoiced too soon. When taking a sip, the taste of copper coins enter, tea with bag in too long. In any case, the sherry casks make themselves known. To me, it seems the distillery character is a bit subdued. While travelling to Scotland earlier this year, at Glasgow Airport you could taste a few Bunna's. Sadly, because of the beautiful but long Gaelic names - very difficult to remember, I don't know what it was. But those were cleaner in nature, and weirdly preferable to this 12 years old. It might well be this style is just not for me, but I think Bunnahabhain deserves a more impressive flagship.

Conclusion: Not a mess, but also not totally coherent. Somehow, I feel there is more potential. If you like solid, edgy whisky, this could well be a bottle for you.

Score: 81 points

Bunnahabhain 2012, 11 years old, bottled at 48,2 % abv by Signatory Vintage

Makeup: Small Batch Edition #7, but no information on just how small this batch is. I only tasted one expression before, a Mortlach 2011, and found it excellent. That one was a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks. This Bunnahabhain exclusively from oloroso sherry. Vintage 2012.

General impressions: Surprisingly, it is mostly the same as the core expression. At first it is difficult to get some differences and they seem subtle, but with time that changes quite a bit. The sulphury notes on the nose dilute with oxygen and the sherried sweetness takes centre stage. We know from experience that Signatory has their hands on extremely high quality sherry casks. They seem to work wonders here too, but still the fatty spirit of Bunnahabhain makes sure you make your tongue dirty from drinking. Such an expressive malt whisky.

Conclusion: Compared to the standard offering of Bunnahabhain itself, this one wins the day for better balance, and a better job at rounding out the rough edges of the Bunna-character. But without losing the dirty side that makes this malt such an authentic offering.

: 84 points

Disclaimer: taken from self-owned bottles.

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