Bunnahabhain 18 Years Review

“Down On Funky Street”

Whisky Review # 654

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bunnahabhain
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 18 Years 
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46.3%
Maturation: A Mix of Sherry and Bourbon Casks    
Chill Filtration: No   
Price Range: US$ 100-140 (October 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😜 Positive. Quite a Personality!

Colour: Mahogany/Chestnut with shades of Brown and Red (Natural Colour)

Nose: My first impression is a Musty Aroma that I can't exactly identify. It has elements of Sulphur, Varnish, Wood Polish and Shoe Polish. It's not really an off-note but it's kinda odd and funky. Be sure to give the 18 Years sufficient time in the glass as this Aroma slowly fades over time. I also find Toasted Barley, Butter Kekse (German Butter Biscuits), Toffee, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Heather-Honey, Pizza Dough, Marzipan, Sweet Dried Fruit like Raisins, Dates, Apricot and Figs,  Apple-Vinegar, Grapefruit, Blackcurrant Muffins, Leather, Tobacco, Sandalwood, Nuts, Mint, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Wet Rock and Wet Leaves. The Sherry casks have left their marks. The Nose presents some Dirty, Authentic characteristics. This is not your average mainstream stuff. It may not conquer you at the first sniff but it certainly grows on you. The Alcohol is nicely integrated.

On my way to Islay, May 2017

Palate: Good Delivery. The Wood and Wood Spices are more noticeable by now and fight the Sherry cask notes for hegemony. The Palate is Bitter-Sweet, Oily, Woody, Spicy and Herbal. I find Toasted Cereals, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Cocoa Powder, Dried Fruit like Raisins, Sultanas, Figs and Banana, Nougat, Tobacco, Leather, Heather-Honey, Pepper, Salt, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Menthol, Licorice, Espresso, Herbal Tea, Grapefruit Juice, Soy Sauce and Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup. 

Finish: Quite Long, Woody, Spicy and Herbal. Mostly Bitter-Sweet. A few Sour notes as well. I find Toasted Barley, Heather-Honey, Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Dried Fruit and Nuts, Red Apple, Pepper, Salt, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Dried Herbs, Menthol, Licorice, Cherry-Flavoured Cough Syrup, Tobacco, Varnish and Grapefruit. 

Drinking Advice:

This Bunnahabhain accepts a few drops of Water although added Water does not provoke major changes. Just experiment with a few drops at a time. 

Rating: 87   

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 21.5  - Overall: 21.5

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The Bunnahabhain distillery was founded in 1881 and is located on the isle of Islay, close to Port-Askaig. Since 2003 it is owned by Burn Stewart Distilleries, part of the South-African Distell Group Ltd. At the moment the distillery roughly produces 1,5 million liters per year. The core range consists of the 12, 18 and 25 Years as well as 2 peated expressions, the Toiteach and the Ceobanach. We last visited Bunnahabhain in May this year and were not impressed with the Tour, the Shop and the general outlook of the distillery. I'm pleased to report that very recently the owners have announced serious investments in the amount of 11 million Pounds. Improvements will be made both in infrastructure and in the production process. Everything will be ready by 2020 and I certainly would love to visit the distillery by then!

The 18 Years has been part of the core range for a long time. But in 2010, the new owners decided to give this expression a face lift. Gone are the Caramel and the Chill-Filtration and the 18 years is now bottled at 46.3%. It also got new packaging and presentation. Well done Burn Stewart!

Visit May 2017

🍷  The Spirit:

The distillery possesses two pairs of Stills with Lyne arms that either have a straight forward or slightly upwards angle. The Spirit is usually light bodied with Sweet Fruit and Nuts. The Water is both sourced from the River Margadadale and Loch Staoisha.

Visit May 2017
🌲  The Wood:

The 18 years matured in a mix of Refill Ex-Bourbon casks (Around 60%) and Refill Ex-Oloroso Sherry butts (Around 40%). Based on the intensity of Aromas and Flavours I assume that the Sherry casks are a mix of active and less active casks. 

Drinking Experience: Good and Interesting


In places this 18 Years smells and tastes just as Dirty as Bunnahabhain's walls. But in this case it's a compliment. This is a far away cry from today's average Single Malt. It has balls, charisma and personality. It's not a Single Malt that will appeal to everybody and newbies might find it a bit too Funky. But there's a lot to discover in this Bunnahabhain and it's not a Single Malt you're gonna forget after having tasted it. It has its flaws like the Varnish note but overall it shows a kind of messy balance that is quite unique. It can't be cheap of course but if you have the cash and are willing to Strut the Funky Stuff I can fully recommend the Bunnahabhain 18 years. 

Jan van den Ende                                                                 October 9, 2017

Visit May 2017

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