Bunnahabhain 18 y.o. Review

Bunnahabhain 18 y.o.139

46.3% abv

Score:  91.5/100


No beating around the bush.

I adore this whisky.  Where the old Bunna 18 seemed somehow flat and lifeless, this is vibrant and sparkling.  It is not only incredibly relevant, but a welcome addition to the Islay malt stable, something I think Bunnahabhain has struggled with in recent years.  Most whisky drinkers, when asked about Islay malts, will wax poetic about Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Lagavulin.  Others may think of the rebellious Bruichladdich or fledgling Kilchoman.  Not many immediately think of Bunnahabhain, the island’s most lightly-peated offering.

Bunnahabhain has never been bad, it has simply been overshadowed and under-hyped.  My personal approach to Bunna was that if I was going to spend money on an unpeated (or lightly peated) whisky, there were far better ‘bang-for-your-buck’ drams on the market.  Bunna has kicked that approach out the window with its recent facelift.

Here is the 18 year old expression, non-chill-filtered, and bottled at a perfectly suited 46.3% abv.

Though I believe all whiskies should be served up in this manner, it holds particularly true for the older vintages, which need the oomph of a higher alcohol content to let all of those sexy flavor notes and subtle complexities carry a little more heft.  Bunna 18 is a prime example of this theory.  Older than it’s years and just starting to show that waxy age, this is a malt that is unquestionably Islay, but unmistakeably unique.

The nose is smoke and sherry.  Ashy peat.  Pear and sweet banana cream.  Some sort of orchard fruit.  Honey and vanilla.  Stunning interplay at work here.

First sips…

Wow, what a mouthful.  You can feel the oily tentacles exploring every oral crevice.  This is a gooey, chewy malt full of smoke, sherried honey oak and a complex tapestry of spritely fruits.   This is maturity and youthful zest in perfect harmony.  Kinda like a mix tape (showing my age here) with the odd classic sprinkled in amongst a hatful of new indie bands.

The finish is thick and solid and lingers.  Lovely.

There is something quirky and odd about this one.  Something akin to a distinguished old man wandering the halls of a nursing home with his ass hanging out the back of his dressing gown.  Bearing both age and zip, this Lazarus act is one of the whisky sphere’s greatest miracles in recent years.

Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

10 thoughts on “Bunnahabhain 18 y.o. Review

  1. Adam D.

    Thanks so much for this and your other insightful reviews. I saw a bottle of this at my local store for $90, and am tempted, but am not sure whether it’s a fairly recent bottling (which you say is significantly better) or old. I wasn’t able to locate any dates on the package or bottle (though I may have missed it). Any idea of how I might be able to tell the difference? Thanks so much for your help, and keep the great reviews coming!


    Adam D.

    1. ATW Post author

      Hi, Adam. Thanks for the kind words.

      Old bottles were only 40% or 43% (can’t recall). Newer ones are the 46.3%.


  2. Robert

    I had a bottle of the 12 a few years ago (on Ralfy’s advice) and didn’t like it at all. As a result, I’ve stayed away from all Bunna’s since. Have you seen a change with the 12?

    Also, if you like bourbon, you might try Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Great stuff!

    1. ATW Post author

      Absolutely. The 12 is way better too. Not to the standards of the 18, but miles ahead of where it was a few years back.

      I think Bunna has had a problem in the past with a bit of a ‘dead wood’ policy, whereby they would use casks long beyond their ‘best before’ date. Probably a prime contributor to the earlier mediocrity, if you will.

      Either way…they’re certainly on the right path now.

      I dont’ mind bourbon, but it’s definitely not my first choice…especially when it’s my dollars on the line. If the opportunity presents, I will try to ECBP you recommended. Cheers!

  3. Jose Aguilar

    I have a friend that love’s his whiskey n he came across this one n loved it . I would love to get him a bottle of something similar any suggestions. Thank u in advance.

    1. ATW Post author

      Hmmm…not sure on that. This is one of the more unique malts out there. I don’t really know of a parallel whisky. I’m sure he wouldn’t scoff at another bottle of this one though. 😉

    1. ATW Post author

      Sadly, latest one I’ve opened is a sulphuric mess. Hope the next is better, as this is one of my favorite drams.

      1. DougPP

        Re: “Sadly, latest one I’ve opened is a sulphuric mess”
        Bummer to hear that.
        I was just considering picking up Bunnahabhain 18yo, but I’m guessing it would fit your description from March of this year.
        Not a cheap bottle either, being $155 CAD. But had thought of exploring this after seeing old (previous) very positive reviews.


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