Bunnahabhain 18 Year Single Malt Scotch is distilled by one of Scotland’s oldest Islay region distilleries.
Starting operation in 1881, Bunnahabhain is located in a port village on the island of Islay. In fact, the distillery ages its whisky in warehouses positioned along the shore line.
But while many whisky drinkers who associate Islay Scotch with the peat and smoke bomb flavor profile from distilleries like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, or even Caol Ila. Bunnahabhain does not fit that profile. Contrary to common belief, not all Islay Scotches are peated. Bunnahabhain, for example, only utilizes peat in some of its products, which are designated with the word “Moine.” However, Bunnahabhain’s mainstream expressions are non-peated. Scotch drinkers would be much more likely to confuse this for a Highland Scotch, like Macallan, than other Islay Scotches.
Unlike many Scotch distilleries, Bunnahabhain does not chill filter their whisky, or add any coloring to it prior to bottling. The proof is also slightly higher than many other Scotches, clocking in above 90 proof, as compared to the standard 80 proof.
Finally, Bunnahabhain 18 year and 12 year are aged in a combination of Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks.
Bunnahabhain 12 Year Single Malt Scotch (92.6 proof)
Nose: Sherry fruit, barrel char, Oloroso sherry “funk” that translates into an earthy and sulfur character, capers, leather-bound old library books. 3.5/5
Palate: Baking spice on the introduction, with allspice, cinnamon, and clove; fruit leather; then the sulfury sherry notes take over. 3.5/5
Finish: The sulfur and earthy Oloroso notes lead straight into the finish, which changes the mouthfeel to a waxy, spent cigar feeling. 2/5
Value: This retails for about $55. For its quality, age, and established brand-name, this is a very fair price in today’s market. 3/5
Overall: This could be polarizing, given the strong Oloroso influence that may be off-putting to some. We like it, but feel that the finish left something to be desired. Nevertheless, because of the nose and palate, we walk away from this feeling satisfied. 3/5
Bunnahabhain 18 Year Single Malt Scotch (92.6 proof)
Nose: Very fruit-forward, without the 12-year’s strong Oloroso influence; loads of dried fruit, with strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, apricot, and tropical fruit; some light sea salt; rich butterscotch; some toffee and peanut mixture; honey; sherry. 4/5
Palate: The fruit continues to lead, with citrus fruits emerging most prominently; transitions into the sea salt and sherry; cinnamon and nutmeg; very light pepper and caramel. 4/5
Finish: Cohesive with the palate, making it hard to distinguish when the palate ends and finish begins; some additional apple cider; medium in length, but carries the complexity and depth of the palate. 3/5
Overall: This is a dram you can nose all day long. The sherry influence is there, but not nearly as powerful as the 12-year, making us think that this spends most of its time in an ex-bourbon cask. Getting these 18-year old Scotches, which utilize bourbon casks from 20+ years ago, imparts the type of butterscotch and other rich flavors that dusty bourbons often feature. 3.5/5
Value: Bunnahabhain 18 retails for between $110-120. When shopping 18-year old Scotch, the price can be expected to start at $100. Given that, it should be treated as a special occasion, rather than something that could be enjoyed on the daily. This has a special character, and would validate the price tag. 3/5
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com