Bunnahabhain Distillery perhaps isn’t as well known as the ‘big three’ of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg in the South East of Islay or Bruichladdich in the West, but their core range contains some cracking whiskies.
The 18 Year Old was revamped a while ago with updated packaging and bottled at a slightly higher ABV of 46.3% with no chillfiltration. I haven’t tried the previous incarnation, however having tried this one I bought a bottle immediately.
Rich toffee and salted caramel are evident from the start.
Buttery, slightly rum notes come through and the nutty raisin sweetness with clear sherry influence take over.
The nose opens up well with a little time, getting richer with exposure.
Sherry sweetness from the off; rich raisin with just a hint of hazelnut. The alcohol strength gives a bit of bite when it’s neat, but still rich and smooth.
Some tobacco and leather dryness appears, but doesn’t ever take over and then it’s into a very long, rich sweet finish.
A touch of water works well to reduce the alcohol and release more flavour.
There’s a freshness along with the classic sherry flavours which is really interesting, almost like younger spirit has snuck into the vatting.
I can confidently say that this is the best ‘Official Bottling’ I’ve tasted in the last year.
There have a been a number of independents which have been brilliant, but the Bunnahabhain 18 stands above anything else from a distillery point of view. My current bottle is almost finished and will likely be replaced pretty quickly.
It’s completely approachable (so not a ‘mood whisky’), but complex enough to satisfy most tastes; this is verified by almost unanimous approval amongst my group of friends and I can’t think of many other whiskies which have achieved that.
Although the price has been nudged up since I bought it, in the UK I think it represents excellent value compared to other expressions at the same price. This definitely goes onto my ‘must try recommendations’ list.