Category Archives: Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain XXV Review

Can’t believe I’ve never reviewed this one. ‘Specially seeing as how yer boy is an unapologetic Bunna fan.

At an earlier sinDicate Single Malt Society tasting we elected to get a wee bit cheeky and pulled together a ‘barely legal’-themed night; all 18s. One of the 18s we chose for the line-up was an earlier bottle of Bunna 18. As you probably know, it’s a rather decadent dram. Turns out it was also my wife’s favorite of the night. So…many moons later, it just seemed apropos to open a bottle of something a little bigger, a little bolder and a heck of lot more expensive than that 18, on a night when it was just her and I.

Fun to revisit this one. Not much more to say, really. It’s sort of a perennial classic. Old, wizened and as luxuriantly aware of its own girth and swagger as it needs to be. Love it. And as an aside…the distillery turns 140 years old next year. If Distell’s recent investment (a pretty heaping sum) is any indication, there looks to be another 140 ahead. Hope so. Even if Maltmonster doesn’t so much.

46.3% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nutty Oloroso. Sticky dried fruits and equally sticky toffee pudding (like my mate Dave makes!). Syrupy and heavy. Thick, thick, thick smoky honey. Slight menthol. Cherry liquor. Malty. Chocolate. Ovaltine, maybe. A banana and Nutella sandwich. Dunnage. Just the faintest whiff of far off peat. Maybe a memory of gunpowder (yass, yass…the faintest wee bit of sulphur).

Palate: Dried fruits. Loads of sherry. Candied nuts. Chocolate. Figs and sultanas. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A wee bit of smoke. Damp wood. A little bit weedy too. Butter tarts with slightly overdone pastry. Marmalade. Candied orange peel in dark chocolate. That Islay salinity is here on the palate, moreso than on the nose.

Finish: Long and almost droopy, it’s so heavy. Very much on green berries and jimmy fruits, before the wood takes over and leaves a hint of toasty cask.

Thoughts: A lovely old school style of malt that I admit being a little sentimental for. Not a flawless outing, nor a preferred style necessarily, but this one is more than just the sum of its parts.


Bunnahabhain 18 y.o. (2017) Review

Bunnahabhain 18 y.o. (2017)

46.3% abv

Score:  79/100


Why?  Just why?  Who is vatting this stuff?  It pains me to write this, but it’s pretty simple really: It’s easier to omit than to subtract later or to try to overlook.  I would think that should be fairly readily understood.  To be completely transparent: Bunna 18 is typically my favorite 18 on the market, but I can’t recall the last time I tried it without finding huge dollops of sulphur.  It’s unbelievably frustrating to find such deep honeyed, nougaty fruit notes and have them chained to mediocrity (at best) by brimstone.  Please, please, please…leave those flawed and detested butts out of the vatting.  And if you’re sulphur-blind…well, maybe don’t be involved in the selection process for casks.

I probably sound like the Fedora-sporting sulphur police here, but I stick by what I’ve said in the past: if a malt is sulphured, it is flawed.  Sulphur via barrel management is probably the most egregious.  Don’t fill young spirit into bad barrels.  But there is also the issue of not letting your stills do the dirty work they were meant to do.  There is a reason they are made out of copper after all.  Run your stills slow enough to let the metal do its work in stripping out all of those off notes.

Okay.  To be fair, there’s not bucketloads of it here, but there is certainly enough to warrant discussion.  And…for me to debate the standing I hold this expression in going forward.

N: Big and almost cartoony at first nosing.  Sulphur by way of struck match(sigh).  Almost as if someone lit up at a windswept, seaside distance.  Nougat and honey.  Great dried fruits and whisky-soaked nuts.  Dunnage and polish.  Just a slight wine tang.  If you can get past the sulphur…nice nose.

P:  There’s a sharpness of burnt match again here.  And the sherry tastes young and sharp.  Kinda fights the age statement in a way.  Seems anachronistic.  Chewy toffee, dried fruits and scones.  Then some maple and clean oak notes.  Fruit tea and herbal notes.

T: With time the sulphur fades.  Thank God.  Still not up where it should be, but head and shoulders above the previous batch.  Though it pains me to score this one so low.


  – Image & words:  Curt

“Islay Malt” (Bunnahabhain 10 y.o.) Review *

“Islay Malt” (Bunnahabhain 10 y.o.) Review *007

59.2% abv

Score:  88.5/100


* Tasted and scored blind.  This l’il review will be done in two parts (in this same post).  I will update these notes as soon as I know more and find out what exactly this whisky is. 

Alright.  Not gonna get too deep into this one aside from saying it was shared with me, unsolicited, from a mate out in Eastern Canada.  Such is the wonderful world of whisky.  A lot of good people out there just looking to share the experience.

So…this is what we do know as of now:  It’s a 10 year old malt from a bourbon barrel (#900070 from distillery ‘x’).  Served up at a big, big 59.2% abv.  You can see the handwritten label in the photo above.  I don’t know any other details.  I’m not sure if further info is online anywhere, but I intentionally did not Google any additional details  regarding this cask number or anything else related to what is stated above.  What would be the fun in that?

I’ll drop a few more lines under the tasting notes below when the truth sets me free.  For now…

Nose:  Chocolate and chili.  Peat.  Flinty, wet rock notes.  Ash and deep char.  Smoke.  BBQ sauce and a tangy wine note.  Apple and maybe some citrus.  An odd note I’m having trouble putting my finger on.  Ivory soap.  Licorice as it open up.  And just slightly farmy/leathery.

Palate:  Big and jammy up front.  Great arrival.  Smoke and anise.  Can’t get over how chewy this is; stays sweet and juicy.  Somewhat of a disconnect between nose and palate…for the good!  The nose seems dry and punchy, while the palate is lush and mouthwatering.  Notes of what I can imagine apple skins dropped in ash would taste like.  Big dry smoke.  A squeeze of tangy citrus.  Big whisky, this.

Thoughts:  Reminds a little of Ardbeg Alligator, due to the char notes…and Galileo, due to the fruit notes…and Day, due to the ash notes.  Having said all of that…it’s not really Ardbeg-esque.  I really like this.  There is an odd note on the nose that takes me back to a whisky from my early dramming days, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what that malt was.

Follow up:  So…turns out this is an indie Bunnahabhain, bottled by Whiskybroker.  Never would have guessed it, especially with phenols hovering between Diageo’s Islay specs (35 ppm for Lagavulin and Caol Ila) and those of Laphroaig (give or take 40 ppm).  This is a very different beast from other peated Bunna I’ve tried (Toiteach, Ceobanach and a few indies).  Out of character and enjoyable as hell.  It’s kinda like the average housewife who breaks out the leather and latex behind closed doors.  Fun stuff.  Here are a few more details for those who may be interested.

** Thanks to our mate, Portwood, for the opportunity to try something unique and to have a little fun with it.  Enjoyed the malt and the experience.  He didn’t want thanks or anything, but that’s not how we roll.  Anonymity maintained, however.  Cheers!


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bunnahabhain 12 y.o.

Bunnahabhain 12 y.o.060

46.3% abv

Overall:  88/100


Can it really be so?  Is someone at the top finally starting to take notice of what the little people have to say?

It seems the entire whisky world has been clamoring for the industry to drop the artificial coloring and chill-filtration, and most importantly…to bottle the stuff at a higher abv, and it seems as though that din is starting to be acknowledged.  Burn Stewart have helped lead the charge in the revamping of their line-up, which includes Deanston, Ledaig, Tobermory and Bunnahabhain.

This now standard beefed-up Bunnahabhain 12 is one to hunt for.  Bunna is Islay’s sleeper.  It boasts the lowest peating level (2ppm) of all the Islay malts and has long held a reputation as the mildest of the island’s drams.  This sort of puts it in a different league, since comparing it to an Ardbeg would be ridiculous and akin to comparing apples and oranges.

Having said that…this is now a hefty dram.  It is bold in terms of nose and palate, and the viscosity is unchecked as the oils are allowed free reign without chill-filtration.  What you can expect as a result is a substantial and mouth-coating whisky.  Of course this is admirable and a desirable quality, but really means nothing without a bouquet and flavor to back it up.  Thankfully…this new 12 year old absolutely delivers on both counts.

The nose is fruity and sweet.  Hints of banana are tempered with rich Speyside fruit notes, a gentle maltiness and creamy caramel.  There is a tickle of peat teasing here and there and a drizzle of sherry over all of it.  Something about this leads me to impressions of mellow rye as well.  The palate delivers just a touch too much sherry, but I can live with that.  The finish carries on long and pleasant with lingering dried fruit notes.

For different reasons, this will absolutely hold its own against the other Islay malts now.  Vastly different, though bold and unique in its own right.


Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bunnahabhain Darach Ur Review

Bunnahabhain Darach Ur

46.3% abv

Score:  79.5/100


Darach Ur.  Gaelic for ‘New Oak’.  Yep…it sure is.  Holy hell.  You want tasting notes?  Ok.  Oak…oak…oak…vanilla…oak.

Seriously though…oak and vanilla.  Poached pear and rose petals.  Ginger and grapefruit.  Bourbon and pepper.  And oak.  This is not exciting.  With the brilliant strides Bunnahabhain have taken with the recent re-releases of the 12, 18 and 25, I came in to this one with higher expectations than were perhaps fair.  Either way…

Much more happening on the palate than the nose.  But wham! what an arrival.  Like being hit in the mouth with a whisky-soaked 2×4.  Malt-soaked white fruits and ginger candy.  Toothpicks and barley.  Perhaps the faintest echo (perhaps) of smoke.

Ok…Bunna’s folks have claimed malts aged up to 20 years in here.  Really?  These must have been measured in thimblefuls.  This certainly doesn’t present like a whisky with much age to its credit, but…hey…I’ve been fooled before.

I believe you can only find this in Duty Free or at the distillery.  Don’t sweat it.  Do rush out and give Bunna your money…just make sure you’re getting something like the standard 18 y.o. in return.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Piers

Would You Rather Spend The Night With A Bunch Of 18 Year Olds Or One 32 Year old?

Awkward is having your wife catch you with a sassy 18 year old.  Domestic nuclear winter is having her come home and find you messing around with nine 18 year olds at the same time.  Not that anyone would want to be in that situation.  Errr…ummm…

Ok, ok…listen up, boys.  They may be pretty…they may smell good…they may taste good…and they may not even be ‘out of your league’…but no 18 year old will ever give you what a stunning 32 year old can.  I promise.

Though usually I’d give you a few paragraphs of preamble before jumping in to the nitty gritty, this time let’s leave it up to the imagination…

Let me tell you a little about how this one goes.  First there was a fair-haired lass from Speyside…


Glenfiddich 18

43% abv

Nose:  Heather and gooey honey.  Big ol’ baskets of fruit and armfuls of flowers.  Creamy vanilla ice cream, drizzled in creme caramel.  Red apple.  Berries in cream.  Pancakes and syrup.  Oaky, but young and vibrant for 18 years.

Palate:  Smooth and unchallengingly sweet.  Creamy vanillins dance with dried fruit and crunchy apple.  Lovely really.  Almost refreshing.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s familiar and you can’t help but sneak a second peek.  Cute and red-apple-rosy-cheeked.  Probably dated the quarterback.  Do you have a chance?  Maybe.  Is she worth it?  Hmmmm…time will tell.


GlenDronach 18

46% abv 

Nose:  Heavy sherry, rich and sweet…could only be Oloroso.  Cherry and cocoa.  Cinnamon and gingerbread.  Vanilla.  Slight yeastiness.  Fruitcake, mild cigar leaf and deep plumminess.

Palate:  Slight bitterness, almost tannic.  Heavy raisin bread and rummy fruitcake.  Drying.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Bubbly and fresh, but…there’s a little more of a dark side here.  This is not vanilla sex.  This is jeans and cardigans by day…handcuffs by night.  There’s a sensibility and maturity here that tells you no one will ever know about this dark side but you.



Macallan 18

43% abv

Nose:  Rich and chewy sherry…but very soft.  Nutmeg and cream.  Muted cherry.  Toffee.  Heather.  Nearly faultless nose.

Palate:  Mildest of dried fruit.  Caramel.  Warm melted chocolate.  Oak.  Lasts none too long, but a beautiful top note and denouement.  Man…what exceptional balance.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This one is a princess.  She’s not in your bed ‘cause she wants to be.  She’s there ‘cause she’s slumming and looking for an experience.  Don’t get too settled…don’t fall in love.  You can’t afford the upkeep on this one.


Highland Park 18

43% abv

Nose:  Creamy honey and rich peat smoke.  Dusty, spicy vanilla.  Mild cigar.  Rich sweet butter.  A bouquet of soft fruit and barely seen floral notes.  Hint of dill.

Palate:  The delivery is unbelievably smooth and calculated. Rich wood smoke teases, then mellows out with sweet caramel notes

Thoughts & Impressions:  Messy-haired and ready for a pillow fight.  She’s not leaving till sun-up.  And that’s not ‘cause she wants to sleep.



Bunnahabhain 18

46.3% abv 

Nose:  Smoke and sherry.  Ashy peat.  Pear and sweet banana cream.  Some sort of orchard fruit.  Honey and vanilla.  Stunning interplay at work here.

Palate:  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.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Just a down-home small town girl that everyone underestimates.  The thing is…she’s bloody brilliant at everything she does and no one who meets her can resist her.  This is a keeper, if only you were looking to settle down.


Talisker 18

45.8% abv 

Nose:  Yeah, baby…there’s the Talisker pepper!  Salt.  A peaty backbone.  Cinnamon and ginger.  Some kinda soft orange fruit.  Toblerone.  Warm leather.  An absolute classic on the nose alone.

Palate:  Pepper.  Surprisingly sweet and fruity.  Swirling ribbons of smoke.  Peat.  Faint notes of old sherry.  Such a phenomenal linger smoked green apple.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Yow!  She’s a spicy one.  Blonde and bold.  Fiery-tempered.  Full of personality.  Highly possible she’s also the love of your life.



Longrow 18

46% abv

Nose:  Prickly and peppery.  Hint o’ mint maybe.  Smoke and caramel.  Licorice.  Some salt and thick cream over blueberries.  Wee bit o’ peat, but not near what I’d generally expect from a Longrow.

Palate:  There’s the peat I expected on the nose.  Comes through with some spiced apples and smoke.  Lindt chocolate with chili.  Long, long finish.

Thoughts & Impressions:  The dark-haired younger sister of your girlfriend.  Sassier and miles more charming.  No, you’re not wrong…she is trying to seduce you.


Caol Ila 18

43% abv 

Nose:  Slightly ‘green’.  Honeydew melon.  Aloe.  Mild citrus.  Fruits are starting to come forward.  Salt.  Very light smoke.

Palate:  A little more smoke than on the nose.  Great green fruit delivery.  Lovely and uplifting.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She comes from the biggest house on the street.  Her parents have lots of money and drive brilliant cars. She’s the one everyone wants but are afraid to approach.  Shame, really.  She’s also a sweetheart, and easy to love.



Laphroaig 18

48% abv 

Nose:  Orange and chocolate.  Cedar.  Fruity.  Heavy vanilla and black licorice flavored jujubes.  Pear drops.  Sambuca and fruit bowl with dominant bananas.

Palate:  Poached and caramelized white fruits.  Floral smoke.  Some dark chocolate and Werther’s Originals.  Drying with tobacco and clean smoke.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This is a mysterious one.  Redolent of exotic and foreign perfumes.  Dark and alluring.  This is the Dashiel Hammett heroine seen through a haze in a dark and smoky bar.  You love her.  But can you handle her?




After a romp like that I promise you you’ll still be left wondering ‘what if?’  And further, that empty feeling won’t be sated until you finally spend a little time with the one that should have had your attention all along…


Springbank 32

46% abv

Nose:  Smoke and wax.  Coconut milk and soft pineapple juice.  Marmalade.  Vanilla and oak.  Some tame spices.  Becomes fruitier and fruitier over time.

Palate:  There’s the maturity.  Waxy…smoky and oaky.  Dried fruit…apricot maybe.  Creosote.  Gorgeous, gorgeous oak.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s what you’ve waited for.  Vibrant and sweet.  The older she gets, the more you love her.  Age has taken all of her best and given it just a little more brilliance by imparting a mature knowing.


barry's place pics 014

How can you possibly top her?  Simple…you can’t.  I’ll take my beautiful 32 year old over any 18 year old…any day.

Happy birthday, babe.  Love you.  Always have.


– Tasting notes and write-up:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt (except Caol Ila, courtesy of Pat)

Bunnahabhain 8 y.o. MacPhail’s Collection Review

Bunnahabhain 8 y.o. MacPhail’s Collection

43% abv

Score:  78/100


What the hell have we here?  One of the oddest Bunnahabhains I’ve ever encountered, to be sure.  If you told me this was a Lowlander I’d believe you.  If you handed this to me blind and suggested it was an Islay malt, I’d likely look for the men with the butterfly nets.  This in and of itself kinda speaks volumes as to the footprint Bunnahabhain leaves.  The distillery’s reputation is almost a non-reputation.  Shame, really.  Bunna releases some damn fine whiskies.  Especially in recent years under the ownership of Burn Stewart.

Here, of course, we’re not speaking of a Burn Stewart release, but instead of an independent bottling by Gordon & MacPhail.  A freakishly young one at that.  Eight years old and absolutely no pretense of playing ‘grown up’.  I sort of dig it though.  It’s neat to try such a young naked Bunnahabhain.

This one is lively and light.  The oak is still screaming like mad at this age.  Vanilla is skipping along hand in hand, as to be expected from such a young dram still obviously under the influence of a very vocal cask.  Spiced bread dough straight from an old country kitchen.  Rather typical Bunnahabhain pear.  Floral notes, ginger, pepper and cinnamon.  Finally…salt water taffee.

Thin and decidedly lacking any real personality on the palate.  Not bad, but…just not much to speak of.  Oak and tart green fruit.  Again…I would never peg this as a Bunnahabhain.

To be honest…a little too little of anything special going on to really sink your teeth into and love.  But I do rather like it anyway.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bunnahabhain 30 y.o. Old Malt Cask Review

Bunnahabhain 30 y.o. Old Malt Cask

50% abv

Score:  91/100


1978-2009 in wood.  One of 566 bottles.

This is the oldest Bunnahabhain I’ve tried to date.  Interestingly enough, the profile is almost exactly what I would expect from an old Bunna.  It’s almost uncanny, especially considering this is an independent release.

Admittedly I have a bit of a soft spot for Bunnahabhain.  On an island renowned for its peat and smoke monsters, Bunnahabhain is the soft-spoken gentle giant.  Quiet of tread, yet decidedly assured.  This immediately endears me to a malt that stands on its own merit, and not on the back of a profile that just so happens to tickle my tastebuds (that of beefy peat and billowy smoke).

This old Islay gent gives us a nose of stewed fruits and a wee bit of smoke.  Some creamy caramel and sweet old sherry notes.  Mincemeat tarts and dry rye bread.  Rich liqueur-soaked pears.  ‘Age’, as much as that is actually a flavor note in and of itself.  This borders on being a beautiful nose, really something special, but in the end only toes the line.

On the palate…a little skunky.  Bitterness blocks the fruits that are bouncing around and trying desperately to peek over it’s shoulder.  Not nearly as sweet as the nose hints at.  Sharp dates and currants.  Still good, but sadly…a letdown.

I think locally this retailed for about $200CA.  Absolutely worthwhile.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

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