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Bunnahabhain distillery was founded in 1881 by William Robertson and the Greenless brothers William and James. Production started in earnest in 1883 and in 1887 the distillery was integrated into Highland Distilleries Company Ltd. Production continued uninterruptedly until 1982 when the distillery was closed for two years. It was reopened in 1984 and in 1999 was acquired by the Edrington Group. In 2003 Bunnahabhain distillery was sold to Burn Stewart Distillers, together with the 'Black Bottle' brand. This current version of the 12-year old was first released in 2010 with a new ABV of 46.3%, no chill-filtration and no added colouring.
The nose is rather light but lush with plenty of vanilla flavours, a hint of honey and discreet smoke in the background – not too complex but lovely.
The palate is medium-bodied and a bit dry. The smoke is now more distinct and comes together with notes of vanilla, nuts and a hint of lemon, overall in very good balance.
The finish is pleasantly long and ends on notes of coffee and wood spice.
This flagship of Bunnahabhain’s core range is one of my preferred everyday malts. It may not be too complex but its good balance and the pleasant mix between fruity character and soft smoke provide for good, honest fare. Kudos to Burn Stewart for having turned this into a non chill-filtered whisky with a higher ABV a few years ago, and let’s hope that they keep it that way in the light of the departure of master blender Ian Macmillan.