Friday, December 21, 2012
Review: Bunnahabhain 12
Strength: 46.3 %
Some whisky lines, like superhero movie franchises, occasionally need a reboot. A couple of years ago, Bunnahabhain was in such need. The flagship 12-year-old expression was a C grade mediocrity: an Islay whisky without peat, mouth-feel, or much character. My notes for that bottling suggested some mild pepper but otherwise that it lived up to the label's "gentle" (i.e. "boring") billing.
But in 2011, Bunnahabhain received a makeover along with the rest of the distilleries in the Burn Stewart portfolio (Ledaig, Tobermory, and Deanston). In addition to sexier packaging, all bottles were made non chill-filtered and alcoholed-up to 46.3 %.
The new Bunnahabhain 12 is a delight in every respect: dynamic, flavorful, and well balanced. Salty sea spray on the nose with a medium sherry influence and touch of vanilla. Sharp and peppery in the mouth; much more assertive than the old bottling (though not quite at the level of a Talisker). Sweet and lively. The sherry has a similar taste profile as a Macallan, and it grows stronger on the finish. The aftertaste is like a salted prune. I love the combination of sherry and ocean character. Even without peat, there is no mistake that this is an island whisky.
This whisky quite grew on me as I continued through the bottle, and my estimation of it rose from being a B whisky on first dram to an A- at the end. Usually the reverse is the case, where the first couple drams are the best and diminishing returns occur once I've consumed a whisky's novelty. However, Bunnahabhain 12 is sneaky complex, being highly explorable without being too subtle. That mix, and its downright tastiness, make it a good drink for many moods, and it gets extra points for this "go-to"ness. I've already picked up a second bottle and suspect this will be a cabinet staple. 92 points (A-).
Other Bunnahabhain reviews: