Well, today is my birthday, so I am going for pure pleasure. Today, I am doing a review of one of the finest whiskies on the planet, Bunnahabhain 12 year-old single malt Islay Scotch. If you would like to know how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, let Brian Cox help you.
I have talked a little about Scotch regions in the past, yet I have not yet talked about Islay. Islay is my favorite Scotch region; it is known for massive, powerful whiskies that take your taste buds for one hell of a ride. “Peat Monsters” like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin all come from Islay. However, there is a lighter side of Islay as well, with distilleries like Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.
Bunnahabhain is a non-chill filtered whisky, aged in Sherry casks, bottled at 92.6 proof. It has a rich, amber color, a much darker color than most Islay Scotches. On the nose, it is sweet and salty. The sweetness comes primarily from the Sherry influence, giving way to almonds, dark fruits, berries, and sweet oak. The saltiness comes primarily from the peat, offering a soft whiff of smoke every soft often in the nose. The palate has the traditional fullness of an Islay Scotch, yet the flavor profile is much different. The front of the palate picks up a full array of sweetness, with notes of hazelnuts, almonds, some light cinnamon sugar spiciness, blackberries, boysenberries, and dried apricots. As the whisky moves towards its finish, it begins to show its Islay roots. The back of the palate begins to get smokier, until the smoke finally releases its power in the finish. The finish is long (another Islay trademark). It starts off with a big puff of peat smoke, yet it becomes deliciously sweet over time, echoing the sweet and salty balance of the nose. The finish seems to take you right to the sea, where a cool autumn breeze is blowing salt into your nostrils as you eat freshly picked raspberries.
As you might have guessed, I love this whisky. My only wish is that the Sherry would not be quite so strong on the front of the palate. Occasionally, you can find this whisky for under $50, which makes it a pretty good deal. Honestly, I have seen other Scotches with this depth and complexity cost twice that much. My grade: A-. Price: $45-50/750ml. This is a whisky for special occasions, and it comes through beautifully. It tastes well beyond its price point.