Reviewed by: Ted
The world of whisky is a lexicological minefield, populated by distilleries and bottlings with all manner of weird and wonderful names. The birthplace of whisky in particular likes to play mind games with the innocent, wide-eyed bystander, the Scottish tongue bending words in ways you just wouldn’t expect.
A true prince of the pack is a distillery from Islay with a name that causes the unprepared mind to melt at the sight of it. Gather your wits dear reader and say hello to Bunnahabhain (phew!). Right, so just to be clear, that’s BOO-na-HAVen (but to really get it, here’s a helping hand from Brian Cox).
The Bunna, as it is more colloquially known, is one of the oldest distilleries on Islay, producing drams since 1881 in the village of the same name. Naturally, being from Islay means that Bunna drams are peated. Unlike other distilleries on the island, however, they aim for a far more subtle maritime nature, with the Bunna motto being ‘the gentle taste of Islay’.
Encased within a heavy black glass bottle emblazoned with the sailor logo and the Roman numerals XII (a numbering system used for their aged releases), the Bunnahabhain 12yo is the core release of the distillery. Made with water from the Margadale spring and bottled at that sweet spot of 46.3%, the 12yo brings forth a rich golden hue.
On the nose the 12yo is light, smooth, sweet and fruity, with ripe autumn apples, dates, plum jam, red grapes and raisins from the ex-sherry casking. Mixed in with the fruits are chestnuts, cashews, pistachios, dark chocolate, brine and rich oak. A veritable cornucopia indeed.
On the palate the liquid hits sharp, salty and dry, like taking a mouthful of seawater on a summertime dip. Underneath sits salted caramel, ginger, mixed peel, seaweed and a faint hint of driftwood smoke. The finish is again salty, and lingers on the tongue like the end of a day at the seaside, a mixture of brine, sweat and sunscreen.
Bunnahabhain is certainly not one of the Ileach peat monsters, choosing to keep that beast well chained in its cave. Instead it manages to sing an incredible song of its maritime environment, perfectly capturing the salt laden winds that blow in from the stormy Scottish coastal waters. The Bunnahabhain is indeed a whisky that is as complex in its nature as it is in its name.
Brilliant review and it definitely brings me back to my visit to the distillery back in January!
The tour guide (Bethany) was telling me a story about how two ladies visited the distillery and said that they didn’t like whisky. Bethany then tried convicing them to give the Bunna 12 a go, although the ladies were rather reluctant. After almost 15 minutes of persuasion, they relented and tried it. They liked it so much that they bought a bottle each heh.
Definitely a whisky that brings out the softer side of Islay and it really does hit the spot if you’re having a dram after dinner on a cold winter night. I definitely would recommend the Bunna 18, which is my favourite expression from the distillery =D
Haha, that’s brilliant. Yeah, it’s certainly got a taste all of its own. I can’t believe how much salty, seaside character is captured in there. I almost bought a bottle of the 18, but I decided I better start off with a more general release. Have you tried many of their special releases?
Keep on waffling,
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Apart from the core range, I’ve tried the Cruach Mhona and Toiteach which were quite good.
I’ve also tried an independent bottling Bunnahabhain 23 Years which was quite good as well as the stellar Bunnahabhain 10 bottled for the LMDW Artist Range.
Definitely worth trying the latter as it is sherried goodness!
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I was wild with anticipation and dread waiting to read this review, having see the tweet (thanks for that!) which announced its imminent publication. Yes, I was veritably shaking in my TopSiders. Why? The wafflers are gimlet-eyed stalwarts not afraid to call them as they see ’em (ref: American bourbon reviews. ouch.) And Bunna has long been my go-to sherried whisky — never let me down, Yet there have been a number of reviewers who experienced burnt rubber and other unpleasant aromas. maybe they were tasting that touch of peat, don’t know. Anyhow, it appears a whisky I have favored for may decades pleased the waffly ones, so I can sit back and have a cup of camomile tea to calm down (being on the road, and not having access to *my* bottle of Bunna 12). Cheers — HW Mac
Glad that you came out safely on the other side. The Bunna is a good drop, and luckily I’m a big fan of peat, so no complaints of burnt rubber here. Im keen to try the XVIII now.
Keep on waffling
So you’re relieved we liked the 12 year old? What do you think we’ll make of the 18? https://whiskywaffle.com/2016/12/22/bunnahabhain-18-year-old/
Keep on waffling, mate.
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