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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Bunnahabhain 12 year old, dumpy bottle (1990s bottling)

Burn Stewart Distillers rolled out a 46.3%abv, natural color, non-chillfiltered presentation of Bunnahabhain 12 year old in 2010, an approach that has continued through the 13 years since. Before 2010, the 12yo had been bottled at either 40% or 43% (dyed and filtered) for more than three decades, most famously or infamously in a green dumpy vessel. Because the distillery was closed for a couple years in the 1980s, and since Bunnahabhain single malt was rarely in demand until recently, the 1990s Bunna 12s could be older than their age statement.

With a generous-sized sample of a 1990s bottling, I was finally able to do a Taste Off between it and......well, you'll have to see on Friday. For today: ye olde 12.

pic of a 40%abv version
Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled and Bottled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Current Ownership: Distell International Limited (via Burn Stewart Distillers)
Region: Islay

Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: a mix of sleepy refill bourbon and sherry casks?
Bottled: 1990s
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Yes
e150a? Yes
(from a bottle split)


The pleasant nose starts with nectarines, eucalyptus, orange zest, and caramel candy. Some peach skins and dustiness fill the background. With time in the glass, the whisky picks up notes of anise and apple cider vinegar.

It has a fizzy, apple, ginger thing going on in the palate for the first couple of sips. Malt, pepper, and lots of caramel arrive next. It gets a good bitter bite, plenty of salt, and a hint of skunky weed, but reads a little thin in the mouth.

It finishes grassy and salty, with a curious mix of bitter herbs and apple sauce in the back.


If not for the decent nose and quirky-but-not-quirky-enough palate notes, this 12yo wouldn't be much more than a whisky to slosh onto ice for detached consumption. It's definitely one step up from a blend (or three steps if we're talking about Cutty), but it's begging for the aforementioned contemporary 46.3%/nc/ncf presentation to wake things up a bit. And no, I don't think there's older whisky in this one, unless the warehouse had some underproof casks to use up. (Disclaimer: There was probably plenty of Bunnahahbain 12yo batch variation throughout the '90s.)

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - shouldn't be pricey
Rating - 82

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