Whisky Connosr
Shop Join

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

More respectable than likable

0 581

@WhiskyBeeReview by @WhiskyBee

7th Apr 2013


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

Show rating data charts

Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Without resorting to research, I can provide two top-of-my-head facts about Bunnahabhain 12: 1) It’s been non-chill filtered and at 46% ABV since 2010 (yay); and 2) It’s another one of those distilleries that require a dialect coach for proper pronunciation (it’s boon-uh-HA-ven…I think).

This is a whisky I appreciate more than like. One of those with assertive flavors unfriendly to my palate, but one that should satisfy those who like a briny bitterness as a dominant feature of the experience. This review is based on my fifth dram from a bottle opened about six weeks. I haven’t noticed much flavor evolution in that time.

Nose: Seaweed and light salty air dominate, with plenty of berry fruits, sherry, and malt vinegar (rather than malt and vinegar), like you pour on fish. There’s also enough graininess (like Wheaties or bran muffins) such that one might mistake this for a blend, but the grain is confined to the nose. Just a faint trace of smoke, more woody than peaty. A nice nose; my favorite part of the experience, in fact.

Palate: A thick, oily arrival that develops in unusual and unexpected ways. It’s all butter, sherry, vanilla, and berry fruits at first, but those flavors are quickly enveloped by a layer of sour cream. Those flavors continue into the finish, where the peat also makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance.

The final aftertaste needs a little time to reveal its more pleasant side. A few minutes out of the bottle, and the Bunny 12 leaves a pucker-inducing flavor that I can only describe as part sour milk and part watermelon with all the sweetness sucked out. After letting it sit for 20 minutes, some nice malt helps even out the rough stuff. I had most of this dram neat, and then added a tiny drop of water for my final sip, which helped bring out some honey and more malt.

Other whiskies have sour, bitter, or vinegary notes that integrate themselves well into the flavor profile, but Bunnahabhain 12’s balance of these elements is off for me. As mentioned, however, it’s one I can appreciate and can well understand how many maltheads would enjoy the 12 for its uniqueness and complexity. Just one man’s opinion; perhaps a cautionary note for those with similar taste preferences.

Related Bunnahabhain reviews


CanadianNinja commented

WhiskyBee, have you had the 18 yo yet? One of my favorites! I like the 12 very much but the 18 is in another class in my opinion. At the moment I'm working my way through the Bunnahabhain Toiteach which is a more peated expression. A fantastic dram, really enjoying it!

9 years ago 0

Rigmorole commented

I tasted the Bunna 12 at a bar in Portland a few days ago. I had never tasted Bunna before, believe it or not. It was surprisingly filled with sherry flavors and quite sweet. I wonder if the batches vary broadly? The bottle I tasted was so sweet that my second glass was just to sweet to enjoy. None of the sour pucker-inducing flavors you mention were there in the glass I drank from. I will say that part way into my first glass I was really pleasantly surprised but by the middle of my second glass, I had decided not to buy a bottle in the near future. At any rate, what I got was not what I had expected. It just didn't resemble any other Islay whisky that I've tasted.

9 years ago 0

WhiskyBee commented

@CanadianNinja - Is the 18 still available in Canada? I can't find it for sale anywhere, and according to Master of Malt, it's been discontinued. The Toiteach is out there, so I'll keep it in mind.

@rigmorole - I've heard there is indeed batch variation with Bunna 12. I don't know if that's the case with my bottle, but I do know that it needs to settle down for a while before I find the same flavors that others get. We do agree on one thing: it's not like any other Islay whisky.

9 years ago 0

DaveM commented

I went to the Master of Malt website this morning. Bunnahabhain 18 yo is still available for $83.73 US.

9 years ago 0

WhiskyBee commented

@DaveM -- You're right; thanks for the correction. When I couldn't find the 18 yo available at U.S. retailers, I searched on "Bunnahabhain 18" on Master of Malt and got this: masterofmalt.com/whiskies/…

Didn't notice at the time it was the discontinued old bottling. Hence the wrong conclusion. Thanks again.

9 years ago 0

You must be signed-in to comment here

Sign in