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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bunnahabhain 1988-2004 Scott's Selection

On Monday, I reviewed a Glenlivet 1977, the oldest of three bargain bin Scott's Selection single malts split by your favorite local #whiskydicks. Today I'm reviewing the Bunnahabhain 1988 which is, like Master Gee, the baby of the bunch.

While the Glenlivet was held by some very refill "Oakwood", the Bunny had a least one active cask in the mix. Aside from having some color to it, there was all sorts of curious stuff going in the palate during my first approach. First I thought it was a sherry cask, but then Scott's usually labels those malts with a "Sherry Wood" designation. Then I thought it was there was a spritely American oak cask involved. Now, I sorta kinda think there may be a refill sherry cask and a first fill ex-bourbon. I blah blah blah all this because Scott's Selection hasn't labelled these whiskies as "single casks".

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Current Ownership: Distell Group Ltd. (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay, but not the Sexy South
Bottler: Scott's Selection (R.I.P. 😿)

Age: 16-ish years (1988-2004)
Maturation: "in Oakwood casks" (plural!)
Alcohol by Volume: 53.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Its color is light gold, which really is one of the darkest shades I've seen in my Scott's bottles. The nose holds milk chocolate, caramel and lemon cake. Occasional hints of lychee and shoe leather. With time and air, it turns into maple syrup and Skittles. Seriously. The palate starts off salty and sweet, with a ginger zing and something phenolic. Tart citrus, tart berries and almond cookies. It grows sweeter and the fruit gets......fruitier. A touch of vanilla beneath. It has a long tingly finish with tart citrus and off-season cherries. More sugar and citrus with time.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
In the nose, an earthy note joins the milk chocolate and bright fruits. The palate gets sweeter. Some tart lemons and limes. There's that edgy phenolic thing again. Tartness, sweetness, bitterness and vanillaness in the finish.

At first the palate is a little closed, but then it blossoms with lots of air, turning into whisky candy. Its nose always works, with or without air, with or without water. Seems to swim well overall, though.

The "phenolic thing" stumps me more than the mystery cask(s). From my limited experience, Bunnahabhain of this period usually isn't this peatish. Could that be a cask artifact too? Or maybe just some whack funk in the juice.  👈 That sentence.

Monsieur MAO and I have some scarily similar notes on this same bottle of whisky. He picked up on that peaty thingamajig too. Florin (a prince) wasn't as excited about it, finding the oak a bit loud.

If you're in Illinois, Binny's may have a bottle or two left at the correct price of $79.99. Or they might not. It has that weird noncommittal status on the website. Otherwise it's selling for $150, $230, $250 and $400 elsewhere. What a country.

Availability - 
It's around

Pricing - see the final paragraph
Rating - 87 (with water, without water, whatever)