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Friday, September 8, 2023

Things I Really Drink: Bunnahabhain 12 year old (bottled 2018)

In 2010, Burn Stewart Distillers' single malts — Bunnahahbain, Ledaig, and Tobermory — received a reboot and upgrade, arriving on shelves at 46.3%abv, with neither chillfiltration nor e150a. Though it was ultimately a business decision made by The Suits, I'd like to think it was then-Master Distiller Ian MacMillan's idea to present a better version of their single malts to the market, and perhaps win over a few new customers in the process. It worked for me! Thankfully the parent company, Distell International, hasn't changed that approach in the 13 years since.

On Tuesday night, I did a side-by-side of old Bunna 12 and new Bunna 12, posting the former's results on Wednesday. The 1990s batch I tried was a decent drink, but it seemed to demand a better presentation. Next to the contemporary 46.3%abv version, it read thin and sleepy. Here are my thoughts on my most recent bottle of Bunny 12:

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Ownership: Distell International Limited (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay

Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: Sherry casks + bourbon casks
Bottled: 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 46.3%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from the top third of my bottle)


It wears its style right up front, with the cuddlier notes in the back. Raw walnuts, saline, lemon, and little bits of earth and shoe polish fill the nose, from first sniffs to last. Cinnamon, honey, marzipan, and Mcintosh apple peels provide background brightness. Gone are the occasional generic sherry cask notes I used to find in earlier 46.3%abv bottlings; now it tilts towards actual Palo Cortado at times.

In the palate, as in the nose, the fight is in the fore. Up top: salty/briny, with bitter herbs, steel wool, and a hint of leather. Toffee, almonds, and lemons in the middle. Sweeter citrus and fresh ginger in the background.

It finishes with tarter lemons and bitter yuzu peels, raw nuts and steel wool. It gets saltier in later sips.


This bottle gets better with each successive pour. Edgier notes are strengthening, and flavors expanding. I'm still in the bottle's top third, so it may improve further. This might be my favorite 10-12 year old standard Islay right now, even though it's not one of the peaters, which is impressive considering there are no thunderous phenolics for the spirit to hide behind. Perhaps I should try some older Bunnahabhain during this cluster...

Availability - First World-wide
Pricing - (USA) $55-75, (Europe) $40-$60 ex-tax, (Japan) CHEAP
Rating - 87

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