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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.