The Bunnahabhain distillery has graced Islay since 1881. Located on the northeastern part of the Island, the whiskies coming out of here are known to have a much milder flavor profile when compared to other whiskies produced on Islay. This is partially due to limestone-filtered spring water, which contains no peat. The brand is currently owned by Burn Stewart Distillers, and is a major malt component of Black Bottle blended whisky. An internet search revealed that Bunnahabhain didn’t release it’s first single malt until the 1970s. Before that the whisky distilled here was strictly used for blending into Black Bottle.
The 12-year-old whisky is the distillery’s youngest age-stated expression. It’s un-chillfiltered and natural color. Bunnahabhain says the rich color is due to the use of some sherry casks. Kudos for the higher-than-normal abv. Here, it’s presented at 46.3%.
The nose is rich with salted toffee and dried fruits. There’s no peat to be found here. The entry is intensely flavored. Strong notes of toffee, fruit, salt and vanilla all swirl around a background of soft, bittersweet oak. This reminds me more of a Highland malt than an Islay malt. The finish is long, warm and carries a sweet and slightly salty note. A small splash of water opens this whisky up nicely, but don’t go overboard. A drop or two will do.
Re-tasting Black Bottle blended whisky, I can easily pick out the influence Bunnahabhain adds. By itself, it is a lovely and robust sweet and salty malt. Bunnahabhain 12-year-old has instantly become one of my favorite whiskies. Don’t be like me and hold off on tasting this delightful whisky. I hope to find and taste their 18 & 25 year-old expressions soon.