Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old

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Continuing on around the coast from yesterday’s Bowmore review we arrive at the northern end of the island and the Bunnahabhain distillery. Having relatively recently adopted a more craft presentation it will be interesting to compare to yesteday’s Bowmore entry bottling.
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The Distillery

Bunnahabhian was a purpose built distillery from 1881. The joint venture between William Robertson and the Greenlees brothers was an expensive undertaking at the time. The total bill for the project came to 2.6 million pounds in today’s money. The project involved building not just the distillery and warehouses but a pier for ships to dock, a road to the nearest village and housing for the distillery staff.

In the google maps below go into street view along the narrow winding road up to the distillery it is quite an experience in VR never mind driving it in real life. Also note the location of Caol Ila Distillery further south down the sound of Islay and splitting the two in the middle is the Ardnahoe distillery which is currently in construction. Ardnahoe is owned by Hunter Laing the independent bottler and the distillery is expected to be complete early 2018.

Bunnahabhain, built by Islay Distillers was always envisaged as a producer for the blending houses. It was a workhorse for many different blends over the years and is quite overlooked by whisky fans around the world. Today the distillery houses 4 large stills and under new owners Distill are a well respected single malt producer and providing whisky for the Black Bottle blended whisky.

The malted barley comes from the Port Ellen maltings on the southern end of the island. However, the first thing you notice about the offerings at Bunnahabhain is the majority of them are not peated. The core house style of Bunnahabhain is an oil rich flavoursome whisky using a lot of ex-sherry casks. The yearly production still includes some peated spirit and those bottles should definitely be tried but unpeated Bunnahabhain is very good indeed.

A large part of this resurgence of interest in this distillery comes from the decision in 2010 to reintroduce their entire core range with new modern packaging, increasing the strength of the bottles to over 46%, using no food colouring and not doing any harsh filtration of the whisky before bottling. This has let to the real character of the spirit and the quality of the wood to shine through in the bottles for sale. Last but definitely not least the pricing is very competitive especially with the bottles carrying age statements.

The Dram

The whisky I am reviewing today is the 18 year old bottle. This like all the others is completely nature and presented at 46.3% ABV. For an 18 year old whisky this is really excellently priced at only £69.84 here.

You should always drink your whisky any way you choose. That is something which I think is really important. Please never be led by anyone else always find your own path to enjoying whisky. However, I would really consider you let this one sit in the glass for a solid 18 minutes before trying it. I would also definitely experiment with water to see if you prefer it against the flavours you pick up neat.

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Tasting Notes

Colour – Deep rusty orange

Nose – caramel and chocolate oranges

Palate – thick and coating in the mouth, almonds, quite hot though even with water

Finish – bitter finish and drying, more chocolate orange and salty

Final Thoughts

The bottle is nearly finished now and has been open for at least four months. This was quite a hot whisky which actually disappointed me at the start. However, sticking with it and letting it evolve through oxidation in the bottle it has really growing arms and legs. The sherry cask flavours have been teased out as the slightly harsh alcohol has evaporated away and I am really enjoying the last few glasses I have left.

The 12 year old is another whisky which I would recommend heartily. It is a steal in supermarkets being around £33 in Sainsburys. It has stronger sherry notes for me and a lot more salt so is that is what you enjoy it’s well worth the investment.

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