Bunnahabhain Tasting Notes


I’ve been branching out lately to Scottish single malts from the Islay regions for one reason – to see if my palate is any different from what it was five years ago. I say this because my first ever dram of any type of whisky was a Lagavulin 12yr, and as you can imagine, back then I had no appreciation for the strong peat, smoke and sea breeze flavours that it produced. Put off for evermore, I’ve gradually brought myself round over the years and have sampled many a whisky, but now, it’s time to venture over to the Isles again. A friend of mine recommended to me the Bunnahabhain range as a good starting point, so without further a do, here’s everything you need to know.

In 1879, the Islay Distillery Company was set up by William Robertson, James Ford, James Watson Greenlees and John Marshall to construct a new distillery on the Sound of Islay. The Bunnahabhain Distillery (pronounce Boon-a-havn) was built in 1881 and lies on the north–eastern tip of Islay. It officially opened in 1882 and the following year full production began. In 1887 it merged with William Grant and Co. to form Highland Distillers. In 1930, the decision was taken to close as the recession deepened and unemployment accelerated within all the industries but seven years later, the distillery re-opened. To contribute to expansion, a second pair of stills were added in 1963 to produce whisky for blending purposes. The distillery was unfortunately mothballed from 1982 until 1984, and sold to Burn Stewart Distillers in 2003.

Bunnahabhain Range

Bunnahabhain is rather unique in that it is milder than most Islay whiskies. This is due to the water they use that rises through limestone and is transported by pipeline to the distillery. This stops it picking up any peat flavours on the way. The fine malted barley is never heavily peated either, and the sea facing warehouses provide the perfect environment for maturing.

So despite a rather inconsistent history, its uniqueness has shone through, and below I give to you my tasting notes on its core range –

Bunnahabhain 12yr – 46.3%

Launched in 1979, gentle smoke on the nose, with a deep, bold fresh forest floor aroma coming through. Light on the palate with slow hints of nuts and fruit that leads to a sweet finish.

Bunnahabhain 18yr – 46.3%

Launched in 2006, burnt smoke on the nose, with a deep honey bacon aroma. Smooth on the palate with a sense of nut and spice with a dry finish.

Bunnahabhain 25yr – 46.3%

Launched in 2006, on the nose, it’s light with some caramel tones and sea salt. Very light as it hits the palate with lots of malt and sweetness mixing well for a long finish.

The 25yr is a personal highlight, one worthy of a special occasion or indeed a fitting end to a meal.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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