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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Bunnahabhain 28 year old 1988 Alexander Murray & Co.

Alexander Murray & Co.'s whiskies first appeared as 40%abv tragedies in Trader Joe's and Costco stores. Gradually they started materializing in specialty liquor retailers (Hi-Time, K&L, etc.). Then, almost as soon as I moved to Ohio, Murray & Co started plopping cask strength (CS) bottlings onto shelves. Since the pair of CS so-so whiskies I tried the two months before I moved in 2016, I've reviewed just one of their full-power items, a very good 20yo Ledaig.

Today I'm excited to try their 28yo Bunna, bottled a year after I departed CA. The bottler's website does provide a little bit of cask info this time (huzzah!), so I'm actually able to provide a little bit of data below.

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Distilled by: Highland Distilleries Company Ltd.
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Alexander Murray & Company
Age: minimum 28 years (distilled 1988)
Maturation: multiple first-fill sherry Butts and one first-fill hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 53.2%
Chillfiltered? ???
Colorant added? ???
(from a bottle split)


It noses more like American whiskey than Scotch whisky, like a mix of bourbon and rye. Wave after wave of barrel char and caramel and bananas ride up top, mint and pickle brine underneath. Milder notes of dried leaves, milk chocolate, dried apricots, orange oil, and florals appear occasionally. Astringent tannin levels block out the rest of the palate in early sips. Then vanilla, banana, and milk chocolate arrive. Tart cherries, tart raspberries, and tangy limes show up after 45 minutes. The finish arrives as follows: salted licorice, black pepper, vanilla, caramel, and tart cherries.

I'm adding water to this one.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose keeps the leaves, vanilla, mint, and caramel, jettisoning the rest, while gaining applesauce, cinnamon, and peanuts. Lower tannin levels and sweeter berries help out the palate, while notes of ginger, green bell pepper, marshmallows, and flowers mingle in the midground. It finishes sweeter and pepperier, with the caramel note remaining.


Alexander Murray & Company were wise to send this release to the US, as it caters to the bourbon-preferring palate. Alas, it doesn't work for my palate, so my opinion of this whisky will be in the Internet minority. While I do enjoy bourbon (and rye more-so!), I don't thrill to tongue-stripping tannic blasts, as dished out by 15+ year old American whiskies. And while vanilla and caramel are delicious in actual desserts, getting those notes out of a cask is neither particularly difficult (I did it with all of my own hideous cask experiments) nor interesting. Dilution does improve this Bunna, dialing down the extreme American oak aggression, and offering a quirkier result.

I'm sure this was priced reasonably back in the day, so some of you may have an unopened bottle of it in The Stash. If so, please see the very positive reviews on Whiskybase and Reddit, and just ignore this one. And also add water.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 (diluted only)