Bunnahabhain 12 Year old
sweet, dark, wet, and charred
19th Aug 2012
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Tasting Notes by RedmondBarry
This review is for the "new," non-chill filtered and higher abv Bunna 12. As others have noted, this is a totally different whisky from the old 12, so if you're approaching it expecting a more "evolved" or "refined" version of the old Bunna you may be a little disappointed. The new Bunna is more "in your face" compared to the old one; it's like the Bunna 12 became sick of being the gentle Islay wallflower, and has adopted an aggressive new style that is still totally unlike any other Islay. With all that said, I think this new Bunna 12 is a decent value and overall a pretty solid single malt that I'm sure will provoke a somewhat polarizing response with its new "take it or leave it" style.
Nose: Up front, big sherry and dark fruit dominate, but there is an aged, woody, and earthy quality that ties everything together. Old and dark and wet, like the smell of an old damp wooden canoe on a wet and misty mountain lake morning. The sweetness reminds me of fruit that has been left soaking in homemade sangria, or the smell of a cork that has just been pulled out of a bottle of malbec. Pipe tobacco. There is also faint spice, gingerbread cookies. In the background there is a distinct burnt note that I wouldn't characterize as peat or smoke - more like the smell of a dead campfire in the morning after a heavy storm the night before.
Palate: Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, and soft. Not a chewy mouthfeel but certainly not thin at all. The nose is pretty much realized on the palate - sherry, dark fruits, and, to a lesser extent, tobacco and molasses. Of course, there is the same damp, charred woodiness from the nose permeating everything. There is a suggestion of a nutty holiday cookie. For some reason I could see a bourbon lover really enjoying this, as the sweet/char tango reminds me a bit of woodford or elijah craig. Alcohol burn is moderate.
Finish: The finish is medium length, warming, and is reaffirms the char and sherry. I imagine licking burnt toast that has been soaking in sherry overnight. This whisky does not finish dry.
Overall, an interesting sherried single malt and a total departure from the old Bunna 12. The damp-sherried-char character is funky and unusual, and may really intrique some people while turning off quite a few others. Look elsewhere for an archetypal Islay (not much smoke or peat here) or a reliable all-rounder, but if you're looking for something different in the $40-$50 range and enjoy a dark and rich flavor profile you may want to give this Bunna a try.