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Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

Average score from 38 reviews and 153 ratings 82

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

Product details

  • Brand: Bunnahabhain
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 40.0%
  • Age: 12 year old

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Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

Distell has learned to capitalize on what made Bunnahabhain a sought after whisky by brokers and independent bottlers and has raise the profile of this long time underdog. The twelve year old is one that you often see on lists of bang for your buck malts. Despite the flood of new NAS expressions it still remains available and well received. 

I had not tried this in some time but recently came into a large sample through a trade, it is from a batch prior to the recent change of livery.

Nose: Molasses, sticky toffee pudding, slight sulfur & paraffin. It's spicy with fresh ginger, cloves and a bit of cardamom. There a slight sour yeasty side but overall i'm surprised by how apparent the sherry is on the nose it's only tempered by this slightly vegetal and lemon edge.

Palate: Oily, sweet & powerful, savoury cooked spinach & sesame oil. Toasted almonds, vanilla cake batter, prunes an almost fizzy tingle. 

Finish: Clay, sweetened cream, dates, salted nuts, orange peel and a touch of vermouth.

I was surprised by the depth of this one, a lot of sherry but it's tempered by the more savoury, herbal and salty touches. The weight of the spirit carries everything over well. If you can get this at a good price it's worth trying.

Mmmm I must get myself another bottle sometime - I was very impressed with it at the time

Haven't had it for a couple of years. Time to get another one. Nice review, thanks.


Got this one, so thought I'd put down a few comments on it.

The nose, first sniff reveals a smack of raisins, almost sugary. I haven't checked maturation, but the sherry feels very pronounced. On a later second nosing there's some ripe banana and maybe a little bit of figs. There's some salted toffee.

The Palate is quite hot on entry with a slight burn. There's some spice, and we're in 4th gear on vanilla notes. Again with the raisins. Fairly straight forward and certainly not one of the curiously (and more interesting) shape-shifters.

The finish is short to medium. There's some dry wood bitterness in there, I'm tempted to also say matches. If the palate is more pleasant than the nose, then the finish comes last on the list.

As far as sherried drams go, there are many that I'd rather drink than this. That said, at the price point (£30 in the UK on regular offers) it's not bad so it'd be silly compare it with other sherried alternatives in the £50-90 bracket. From a pure taste experience it's a 73 for me, considering the price/quality ratio I may push that to 79. (note, looking at other reviews here, I am conscious that I'm probably quite stingy with my marks having awarded 89 to a dram that I really like a lot so statistically I may be about 5 points trailing, which I suppose is relevant to help people get an average impression so you may wanna make that 78 for taste / 84 'all things considered').

I too found the bottle I finished (last year?) had a pretty weighty sherry influence. This often seems to be a bit understated in others reviews so I wonder if there must be quite a bit of batch variation. I found lots of lingering spice too - a very enjoyable and underrated dram.

@Hewie I got curious now. Their website says it's bourbon, sherry and whisky refill casks, but I couldn't find any information on how long it's been in the respective casks. Happy easter.


So this is a bottle of Bunnahabhain 12 (small batch distilled). I don't know much about this new release /packaging. Perhaps, it's just a marketing gimmick. Let's get right down to business.

NOSE: smoke, BBQ, seaweed, caramel. Sea salt minerality, toffee, dried cherries, raisins, cola, used up matchsticks (probably due to sherry sulfur influence), rich cacao. (21/25)

TASTE: sweet, salty, mineral, dry, spicy. Chocolate, milk chocolate, vanilla, fudge, peat, ginger (a lot of it), BBQ again, cherries, cherry cola, creamy dark hot chocolate, licorice,strawberry jam (20/25) A little harsh.

FINISH: long, mineral, vanilla, milk chocolate again, dried bitter cranberries, some pepper. (21/25)

BALANCE: 23/25 SCORE: 85/100 OVERALL IMPRESSION: very pleasant, but doesn't rock my world by any means.

@Georgy - My bottle drank earlier this year had a bit of a nip when first opened. After a month or two it became much milder and softened down considerably. I reckon I'd have scored it 83 ish at first but would have been up towards 87-88 by the end.

The dried fruit notes really came out and I'd often take the cork out just to have a whiff! I loved the saltyness on this one as well.

A little sulphur there? That's too bad.

So far I haven't noticed sulphur in Bunnahabhain 12.


The Bunna 12 is the flagship of this (somewhat decrepit looking) most northerly Islay distillery. It was poured during my visit last September. It is bottled at 46.3% for a few years now, making chill filtration unnecessary. The Bunnahabhain 12 is unpeated. This recent bottling is surprisingly dark.

Some orange juice upholstered with bread dough, honey, apricots and something that reminds me of a haystack. Caramel kicks in, quite big. You can smell the barley. It is light, rather easy, but pleasant at the same time.

The body is surprisingly fatty and immediately the oranges and apricots return, joined by sultanas. Loads of sherry influences. Hazel nuts and almond liqueur kick in. Amaretto on steroids with a pinch of sniffing tobacco.

The finish is fairly long, sweet and brings a smile to your face.

Nice all man’s friend that is dangerously quaffable.

this is a very approachable malt which is often the poor cousin of Islay. I love it. I'm pleased you spoke of the loads of sherry influence - I find it very influenced where as others barely mention it. Cheers.

@Hewie - Well, I found this to be a very sherried malt but not a 'bomb'. I remember it getting much better with time and developing a beautiful jammy fig thing.

I hear this is unpeated but it was more peaty and coastal than I would have expected. Mild but definitely Islay in that sense.

I've cast my eye a few times over their heavier peated ones but they tend to be bourbon matured and I'd want a sherried one - the 12 with higher ppm, basically.


This is one I've been meaning to try for some time now, and fortunately, it became available to me at a very reasonable price. This bottle has only been open for a couple of weeks now. Apparently, it is made with un-peated malt, and is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. A unique bottle, but frustrating that you can't see the level.

NOSE: Initially port, cherry, dark red fruits. (Disclaimer: I've never actually had a glass of sherry before, but when I nose this, it reminds me of port.) It is somehow different to the usual sherry influenced malts I've encountered. Stewed fruits, with dried fruit in the background. There's a sweetness not sickly so, offset with burnt sugar. The wood is definitely there too, quite spicy. Unfortunately, the port note is fleeting, but it has been there with every glass from the bottle so far.

PALATE: A delicious, mouth filling combination of sherry fruitiness and spicy oak. A distinctive salty tang that creeps down the sides of the tongue. The spices, clove, nutmeg, linger - almost a little too much for me. The winey notes are still there and also something floral - almost like geraniums. Nuttiness, hazelnut, and a sweet malty background. I don't notice smoke, except a nod to some lapsang suchong tea.

FINISH: Dominated by woody spiciness, quite spicy. Burnt toffee and brine. The wood spices keep on going.

I'm really enjoying this. It's often described as a gentle Islay whisky. The box mentions "fondly known for its wonderfully gentle taste". I was worried it was going to be boring or too light for my tastes. Thankfully, it has quite a bit going on. The spiciness is quite unexpected and builds quite powerfully. Un-peated, but with the gentlest whiff of smoke.

Thank you for a great review. Bunnahabhain is quite the odd bird but I have to agree it is rather good! There are some really peated offerings that are good as well

@Alexsweden Thanks. Yes, I think it is often overlooked in favour of the Islay big guns, but it has a lot to offer. Apparently, they do some heavily peated runs for just a few weeks each year - I'd like to try some of those at some stage too. Cheers


Gold color, seems very oily. Big apple on the nose, raisins, wood, wine. Nice mouthfeel, big spice, fiery pepper, a bit of bitter aftertaste at the end of the jaw, medium finish. I have to put some water.... Citrus starting to come forward now on the nose and taste....half of the spice is now dead...but a small fire still lights up behind the tongue. It less interesting I would say.


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.

I didn't like the older version of this at all, and have avoided it for several years. However, I was recently gifted a bottle of this newer version and found it quite pleasant, so much so I might pay money for a bottle myself. As described, it's not complex at all, but has bourbon-barrel vanilla, a bit of sherry, a bit of smoke ,etc., making it like a high quality malt blend. Worth a shot if you want something that won't tax your palate and most guests will enjoy.

Hi @Taco, thank you for your comment. I agree: Bunnahabhain has come a long way under (former) master distiller Ian Macmillan, and I dare say most expressions have gotten better with the higher ABV and the abandonment of chill-filtering. I started to like this whisky a few years back but after having visited the distillery in October this year I somehow even like it better now.


This was my first bottle of Bunnahabhain. As I neared the bottom of the bottle I was also left thinking I wouldn't mind having another. That is not the case of whiskies I have had nor even individual drams. This is a good one.

Nose: light sweetness, salt, hint of peat, sherry, fruity Mouth: oily, staged delivery becomes quick, hint bitterness, medium spiciness,

Finish: lingering, spicy,

@KMullaney don't worry, I didn't find your comment strongly worded. It just reflect your surprise and I was just having fun with your comment about knowing about cabbage because my wife lived for two years in Bei jing before I met her and she told me about how much she was fed up with cabbage after two winters.

About your question, for me the Glendronach Revival is the real crowd pleaser. I discard all peated whisky, of which I am a big fan, because there is a good number of afficionado that will never enjoy a peated whisky. I didn't go for a light taste neither a cask strenght for the same reason. The Revival with the sweetness, the chocolate, the datte, plum and spices seems to have everything to accomodate a large number of whisky lovers. But that is only my opinion. For a bargain, I would go for Redbreast 12 yo or, if you are open to whiskey, to number of Bourbon.

I tested a Glen Garioch a few days ago that was very vinegary. While the rest of it was very good that note stopped me from buy a bottle that Serge at WhiskyFun rates highly, for him. Vinegar and water here in Taiwan is a common drink and early on in life here I was unfortunately handed a glass without knowing what it was. I was told it was apple juice, I think. Needless to say disappointment ensued. When I tasted that Glen Garioch it came back to me.

Vive La Difference indeed. Ralfy loved the glen garioch founder's reserve I found it much too young. Serge liked the Glen Garioch 12 but for me the vinegar note was a put off buying a whole bottle at this early stage in my development. Looking back I realize my comment was fairly strongly worded. I didn't intend to deny the cabbage note. I am sorry I did. @Shane_IL is spot on.

@robert99 what would you say is your favorite 'affordable' whisky that you think other whisky lovers should try?


This is a unique offering from Islay, no peat, but a wonderfully full bodied and complex malt with some hints of sea salt and brine mixed with sherry. It's very drinkable even without water and has a lovely long finish. A great whisky for a rainy day.

I like this whisky and I actually had a sample of it two weeks ago. Even though it is a good and very much value-for-money, I wouldn't rate it more than 85 either. For me it takets more to reach the 90-ties, but thats me...

I take cost into account with my whiskies, and for it's price range this was some damn fine stuff. I could for sure find a whisky twice as old in some fancy bottle for 5 or 6 times the price, but the fact that I can buy this with my monthly whisky budget makes me really happy. That and the smell and finish really just did something for me. Also Ralfy gave it a 91... (but that's Ralfy)


All this distilleries offerings seem to come in squat bottles with very narrow necks which pore very poorly. I hate bad design so this irks me every time, before I even come to taste the whisky.

This malt opens up expressively with soft sweet peaty aromas, some vanilla, apples and some nuttiness too. Medium bodied and the mouth feel is good, delivering sweet malty flavours along with soft peat. The flavours become quite bitter towards the finish, like burnt toast, which is not wholly pleasant but is the only real blemish on the drinking experience.

I do like this malt, but the bottle shape and the finish let it down in my opinion.


­This whisky seems to have some mixed reviews on Connosr, so it was with some trepidation that I forked out my cash for a bottle. However, this is the new version from Burn Stewart, who have made all their whiskies 46.3% unchillfiltered, which sounds like a good thing to me.

Nose – Firstly some sugared almonds and sherry character, icing sugar, caramel and sweet baked pear, sultanas and cinnamon. Develops into leather with a touch of salt. With water it becomes dusty, roasted flavours, a slight gravy note, porter and coffee liqueur.

­Palate – Sweet, soft arrival with baked pear, cinnamon, brown sugar caramel, sultanas and raisins. Quickly develops into a pronounced nuttiness, roasted hazelnuts, praline, milk chocolate and Irish coffee, and a hint of burnt toffee, with intensity at the back of the tongue. Then some peppery spice at the back of the mouth and some salt. ­ Finish – Nutty, walnuts, hazelnuts, some marzipan, and toasted oak and cinnamon, black coffee, dark chocolate, stout and a hint of biscuit notes. Later, a touch of cloves. Medium long and slightly sweet and bitter. ­ The nose starts off slightly lacking intensity, but open up with water, albeit with some unusual flavours. Then the palate and the finish are absolutely delicious with those wonderful nutty, coffee and chocolate notes throughout. Reminds me a little bit of stout or porter. I can understand if some people didn't like the flavour profile of this one, but for me it's excellent, certainly a favourite.

Those unusual flavors that you mentioned, I get those too when I drink this fine malt. I describe it as "industrial," or "motor oil,". Some folks use the term "tar." Of course, no one in the right mind would dare to taste such things, but that's what it remind me of. Is that the unusual flavor that u mentioned? Great review @thewhiskydictor!!

Thanks @vrudy6, I could certainly go along with 'industrial' for those roasted slightly burnt flavours. For me tar is flavour note I associate more with peated whiskies, which I don't particularly find here. Some other people have mentioned it could be the old sulphur, which is not what I personally taste, but then I could be one of those people that can't really taste it?


Sampled thanks to Patrick. Pours light chardonnay with good legs. Nose is extreme salt lick, opens up to toffee, butter, cake. Really amazing as it decants. Taste is a bit thin, mild paper, peppermint, spice.

Of your 36 reviews on this site, only six have scored in the 80's. Many of your reviews are in the 95-100 range, and many others in the 40-79 range. Not sure about beer, but in the context of whisky reviews, it seems that you're tasting both the greatest whiskies ever known to man, as well as some absolute swill, with not much in between. I think your reviews reflect some extremes that can skew the averages on the website. That being said, I do appreciate the enthusiasm, and I certainly don't want you to stop reviewing. Keep 'em coming.


When The Bunnahabhain distillery decided to put a sailor on the bottle, they were not fooling around. This is a sultry, sea-side delight. The sweet, fruity, sherry cask influence really balances out these maritime nuances.Super complex for a 12 year old. Moderate smoke, sea-salt, raw almonds, sherry, prunes, slight Earl Gray tea, tobacco, leather. Long finish. It really coats your palate,thanks to the non chill-filtering. Excellent whisky. It can be challenging for a beginner. A stepping stone between a Speyside, and a Islay style whisky.Highly recommended!!!!

I agree! There's a lot going on in the glass here. Just a small revision, though. The ABV is 46.3%

U are right. Typo!! Thanks!


Well, what can I say about Bunnahabhain 12 year old? Nothing bad, that's for sure. Good dram and amazingly good for a "sherry whisky".

Like tasting something from the Speyside region, except having the Islay air feel in the nose. Smooth and balanced in every step.

Bunnahabhain 12 yrs was as steady as an old school Hollywood actor. Like Marshall Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) in "High Noon", calmly stepping around his own town. You just know everything is going to be all right.

Nose: Sweet wine and peat. Fresh breeze of Islay air without the smoke. Malt and mild sherry notes.

Taste: Wine and sherry mix. Sweetness turns into nice spices.

Finish: Sweet wine and spices clash nicely. Salty.

Balance: Everything is in order. Very consistent dram that doesn't offer any surprises but is good all the way. Very subtle, was this from Speyside?

I just finished a bottle of Bunni 12 last week. Last time I tried this fine whisky, around a year age, I remembering enjoying it very much, but not as much as I now. I actually bumped-up my score to a 90 from an 85. I guess palates change, or are developed through tasting a diversity of scotches. I'm not too fond of Islay whiskies, however, this one I really love because of its subtleness. I find it very rich and industrial, but in a classy way, like Mark Wahlberg the role of James Bond. LOL!

Nice to hear that @vrudy6 and nice comparison with industrial and Wahlberg ;)


The reviewed sample is compliments of @Nock

Nose: delicate and elegant flavours of barley-malt and wine. Bunnahabhain is famous for being the most removed of the Islay distilleries from the smokey/heavily-peated style, though they do some peated whiskies as well. The sorts of barley-malt-cum-wine flavours here are not unfamiliar, they are just of a very beautiful and high quality. The predominant barley flavours are medium-pitched and show some well-muted pear, apple, and grassiness. The very mutedness of these flavours give them a 'come hither' sort of enticing quality. This is a minor work of art

Taste: very vibrant on the tongue, with the nose flavours translating quite well. This is quite crisp, relatively bright, and also shows spiciness in the mouth not evident in the nose. The wine flavours are strong in the mouth. Very enjoyable

Finish: this goes to sweet, spicy, and winey at the end of the finish. The other flavours last only a medium length

Balance: I had some Bunnahabhain 12 a couple of years ago which I really did not like at all. This one is great. This is more a whisky for those who appreciate subtleties than for those who wish to get the big-flavour-club-you-over-the-head experience. These are subtleties which I find very easy to like

@WhiskyBee, the two experiences I had of Bunnahabhain 12 YO could hardly have been more different. "Nasty sour creme" sounds, well, nasty. I don't think of myself as well-experienced with Bunnahabhain 12, having had only 3 drams from 2 bottles. I think that we'd really have to taste from the same bottle at the same time to accurately compare notes.

@hunggar, when I sampled Bunnahabhain 12 before it was on a whisky cruise in May 2011, so, really closer to 3 years ago than to 2. At the time what I had, tasted like a washed out mish-mash of non-descript flavours...more like dish-water than anything else. (I am going by the nose to approximate the palate of dishwater here.) Could it have been the earlier lower ABV edition? I suppose so. But the problem then was more WHAT it tasted like rather than whether the flavours were concentrated enough. It was the whisky I liked the very least of everything which I tried that night. Still, it was only one sample. I am always careful to put into perspective that misleading impressions can be obtained from just a single sample, particularly when that sample was consumed in the hubbub of a whisky cruise.

@Nock, thanks much for supplying the bottle provenance information. I had thought that this was from a newly opened bottle, but I didn't put that into print because I wasn't sure. This bottle of Bunnahabhain 12 YO certainly changed my thinking about that whisky which had been based on my prior sample from 2 1/2 years previously. About having friends who see many whiskies similarly,... it is very nice when that is possible. Of course it is not always possible. It really surprised me that you liked Glen Grant 10. I would have thought that you would have prefered Glen Grant 10 not neat, but made as a boilermaker with a shot of Octomore in it. No, just kidding, you would never waste a shot of Octomore on a Speyside whisky. But you COULD throw in a shot of Johnnie Walker Double Black.

I bought this bottle in October of this past year (2013). The bottle had just been opened a two days before the sample. Bottle code: P029382 L5 12337 15:04. I found the code (very hard to read) just below the back label.

@Victor - Again, I thank you for the review. I agree very much on your findings and assessment. It is easy to drink, complex, light, not a huge experience, but very easy to like. I have only rated this bottle on one occasion so far earning 25 on my scale (about 88.5 - rounds up to your score of 89). I want to rate this a few more times before I put notes up on Connosr. So, again, nice to see your finds for this bottle are in agreement with my own (thus far)- not that we always have to agree! – but it is nice.


NOSE: the first note I get from this whisky is the one of dry white wine (Pino Grigio). Then it becomes slightly sea-coastal and mineral with just a hint of peat. After a while all of this is heavily masked by very dominant, creamy sherry-related notes, chocolate, and spices. So much so that you can easily mistaken this whisky for a very charismatic Speysider. And as time goes by the Islay almost completely dies out here.

TASTE: big sweet barley malt with mineral nature to it, transforming into seaweed. But, again, after some time Islay makes way for unexpected , delicious sherriness spiced with nutmeg.

FINISH: long, spicy, warming with slight oak and seaweed at the end that you should savor because you will hardly notice it the second or third time you pour yourself a glass.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: it's a Speysider's gig introduced by a host from Islay who, after the announcement, disappears thus allowing the Speysider to carry on with the show on its own. The show I enjoyed immensely.

I love this stuff, it's definitely in the 90s for me too. Great spice, sherry, salt, and a slight peat lingering in the background. This past weekend I shared my bottle with some non-scotch drinkers and they were sold, yet it still intrigues me as I get more into peaty scotches.

It's a delicious whisky) In my opinion, the reason some people misunderstand it is because most are disappointed by the lack of that dominant peat and smoke that they expect when buying a bottle of whisky that says "Islay whisky" on it.


This was another one that I tasted at the bar and was impressed enough to later buy a bottle to bring home. The nose is all sherry. There is a lot going here with the taste, and many of the other reviewers for this one have an even wilder imagination than I do. The glass I had at the bar prompted me to note a smoky flavor, but it is very faint with this bottle. Still in all, a very good malt that borders on me wanting to buy it again. The finish is a pleasant burn.

I just lowered the score from 89 to 86. First impressions can be wrong. Since I cannot edit the content, I will just add these comments.

This one is like a rebellious child. My guess is that all of the staff at this distillery have tatoos of that drunken mariner logo on them. Having the luxury of being located on Islay, why on earth would they advertise that they are the only Islay distillery to pump their water from the artesian well far below the layer of peat? What we get as a result compares to almost any lightly sherried Speysider. Go figure!

I also hate the black bottle whereby one cannot see how much is left. As for keeping light from spoiling it, that is what liquor cabinets are made for. I won't buy this one again.


Yes, I tasted a distinct sherry note in the glass of Bunn 12 that I ordered at a pub in Portland. I was very surprised to taste such a sweet scotch in the black bottle from Islay.

The nose was medium bodied with hints of cream and salt. Taste: sherry, smoke, pepper, mesquite. Finish: medium long with hints of the sherry, some walnut, peppery oak, flax, brine.

My second glass was just too sweet and this surprised me. I'm not sure what was in that bottle at the bar, but it sure did not match the profiles I've read about Bunnahabhain 12. Didn't match the 18 either.

That bottle's a mystery and it was unique. I actually had the bartender bring it to me, and yes, it was the standard 12 year bottle. The sherry profile was not entirely pleasing, unfortunately. It didn't come together particularly well, although the first few sips were quite good. By the end, I was tired of it.

I actually ordered two glasses, one after the other. I was tired of the flavors after the second, not the first. I put a few drops of water into each glass, but tasted the first without water. It improved with a little water.


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.

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.

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!


This was packaged in a neat little dark bottle, with a red, fiery looking logo showing off the complex, fun-to-say "Bunnahabhain" and a grizzled old seaman looking out over the bow of his ship, probably on a magnanimous (or drunk?) voyage off the Islay coast. That is what this whisky feels like to drink. The nose has a ton of sea salt air to it. It has some smoke, and after a few drinks, the caramel really shows up. But the sea air never leaves- it really makes one picture a bonfire by the ocean, with perhaps some caramels (how does one tie caramels in with that imagery?) It is delicious, with just the right amount of strength. Sweet and smoky. The finish is super long, and very peppery. Water drops really didn't do anything. As a fan of super-strength Islay, it didn't hit my "true-love" button, but I fell in love with it all the same.

Thanks for the comments everyone. Not sure about that diesel smell- for me that was a port charlotte (soon to be reviewed- I went a ordered a bunch of single malts last night at a Chicago place, The Duke of Perth!

Last time I tried this one at a pub it tasted of diesel (the way diesel smells, not tastes, of course). Maybe I am remembering the wrong order and it was another distiller? I though it was the Bunna 12 that tasted that way. . . has anyone else out there tasted or smelled a diesel type expression in this one?


I have to be honest, i love the look of the bottle. It stands out from the norm and the smoky glass shades the contents perfectly. The colour is a wonderful moody rich caramel. Upon first pour this seems more Speyside than Islay. It smells salty and sweet backed by fruit. I had expected smoke but its not there.

On the palate it's sweet with sherry and raisins. The finish leaves a tingle on the tongue, sherry and sea spray and finally I get the peat.

It is the first Islay that I have tried that hasn't been powerfully smokey or heavily. This is a good solid entry level with appeal. It's not overly complex but it ticks enough boxes and is a grower.

@rigmorole I think you are right. This is not a very complex dram at all. I like it for its easy drinking, smooth nature and interesting flavour. You wouldn't spend an hour profiling it.

That said, I cracked a new bottle of this open last night.

I've never tasted the old Bunnahabhain 12. I would be curious to compare the new with the old side by side. The old is supposed to be more complex, I guess.


This has a 'take it or leave it' kind of flavour profile. It's not a Laphroaig, an Ardbeg, a Lagavulin, etc. It's flavour profile might be closest to a Bowmore bottling, if one must make a comparison. However the people at Bunnahabhain seem to have gone through considerable effort to make something distinctive. If I were to describe it colourfully, I might say it's a basket of sun-baked fruit sitting atop a soggy piece of driftwood gently floating upon the Dead Sea.

Nose: Dried fruits and brine. A subtle hint of oak. Certainly the promise of sherry and salt on the palate. Quite complex and very pleasant. Seems quite mature for a 12 year old.

Palate: Mildly oily mouthfeel without being creamy. I immediately notice that the salt packs an unexpectedly strong punch upon my unsuspecting taste buds. Seaweed. Much more oak and woodiness than promised by the nose. Alternately, the sherry flavours are somewhat less prominent than the nose promised. Indeed, there are some figs, apples, cherries, wet tobacco, spices, and brown sugar in here, but the maritime flavours dominate. Finishes on a briney, spicy note with a faint hazelnut and stale, wet tobacco aftertaste. In a good way.

Overall, it seems to be a somewhat bipolar dram. I find the nose on this quite deceiving. Being a sherry lover, my senses lit up with anticipation when I smelled it. The nose promises sherry first, maritime notes as a close second, and peat, wood, and earth third.

The palate reconsiders this and offers the maritime flavours the spotlight, with a strong woody peaty character in the supporting role. The two stage hogs work together quite beautifully, but they seem to obstruct the fruity sherry notes from realizing their own star power.

Interesting dram. It's not bad at all if you know what you're in for. I tend to drink this when I'm in a bit of a mood or if I feel like taking a break from my first love, which is sherried Speysides. It probably won't please the hardcore Islay maniacs, nor will it likely please the sherry lovers. For those looking to marry peat and sherry, it works, but it's a troubled marriage. This is largely because the maritime notes are salty enough to pickle your tongue if you drink too much of this. But... again, if you know what you're in for, then this whisky is different, quite complex, unexpectedly mature, and well-priced. Worth trying once.

What a terrific review. This kid can write, folks! (No offense -- I call anyone under 50 a "kid.")

I'm sampling my first dram of Bunna 12 as I write this. At first, I was afraid my bottle was from a tainted batch -- oh, the sulfur! But after five minutes, the sulfur died down and all the earthy tones you describe emerged. "Bipolar" is a good way to put it. I like all the flavors here, but the peppery spices are way too dominant on my palate. And the sulfur makes an unpleasant return in the finish. I'll have one or two more drams in the next couple of days, then let it rest on the shelf for a few months and see what happens.

Canadianninja: Agreed. In all honesty the 12 isn't a favorite, but I do appreciate it. It's a good whisky that seems to be easily dismissed. I think it would fare better if it weren't an Islay product, as expectations might be adjusted. The fact is that it's simply not a flavour profile that everyone will love. But the uniqueness of the taste and the quality of the ingredients and processing do offer up a solid whisky, whether it's to someone's taste or not. Glad to hear someone else appreciates it. Cheers from a fellow Canadian in Asia!


Last night, I got off work and decided to head to Paddy's, a bar in Portland with a large selection that serves it's Whisky in a proper nosing glass. A huge plus.

Having come to a place in my walk with Whisky where I felt it was time to explore what Islay has to offer, I decided to start with the Bunnahabhain 12, having heard it was light and approachable. So the bartender poured me a healthy dram and left the bottle with me to explore. Class act. According to the bottle, it's an Islay pronounced "Bu-na-ha-venn." Go figure!

Nose: Not at ALL what I was expecting. When I think Islay, I think smoke and peat. That was not the case. My first approach was subtle, smooth, damp. Very interesting. Very tame for 46% ABV. I got notes of wet wood, orchard fruits, some light earthiness and a definitely undertone of orchard fruits. Very, very pleasant. 15 minutes in and hazelnut becomes much more prevalent.

Palate: Are we SURE this is Islay? Very welcoming and soft! Leather, fruits, wood, and with time I get hazelnut. Some light smoke. I'm a fan of this.

Finish: Long, heavy but soft, just like the tone of this entire dram. Some hazelnut, orchard fruits and driftwood continue on the end. I'm telling ya, this was pretty damn enjoyable. I'd go back for more.

Balance: This dram, from start to finish, is good. Not amazing, but good. It's balanced, fresh, flavorful. A solid everyday drinker.

Need help deleting this! Accidentally submitted this under the wrong Whisky! This was meant for the Bunnahabhain 12. Please help?


Color is a deep amber, but this is the natural color. Very long, thin legs. The nose is rich in toffee and raisons and baked fruits, maybe apples and pears straight out the oven, but just a little of the brown sugar or nutmeg one might expect in this aroma. And just a touch of that rubbery old Islay malt and medicinal character. The palate is smooth and slightly creamy, not quite oily, with the baked fruit sugars, sherry, mashed nuts - walnuts and brazil nuts - with sweet prunes and a vague malty woodiness also in evidence. The finish is long and warm, with the fruits and sherry slowly diminishing in the sweet burn of alcohol. Mmm-Mmm Good!


Full bodied creamy buttery, sherry sweetness salty, long slow finish. The name is just plain fun to say.


@vrudy6 that is only the half of it. The admiral/wife named our new poodle Bunny we dram of Bunnahabhain. I know we are whisky nerds when you name your dog after it. Thanks for your feedback. (:


When I got a bottle of Bunnahabhain 12yo I was really thrilled with it's name and really wanted to like the whisky.

Just after I opened the bottle the nose was very nice and complex. I could get sea salt, aniseed, grass, nuts, some peat. After a while it mellowed a bit and develped nicely into some vanilla, sherry, toffee, plum and condensed milk. This was one of the most complex noses I tried!

However on the palate it wasn't so pleasant. Quite an alcohol punch, the body is quite thin and watery.

Taste has initial alcohol bite, sweet, revealing grass, nuts, toffee, some peat, chocolate, bcoming a bit bitter in the end.

Finish rewards with cherry, oak, sherry, cocoa, coffee and chocolate notes.

A drop of water develops some fruity and grassy notes. A bit more water destroys it and makes it flat.

This is a controversal whisky fot me. Maybe it's just my taste buds rioting, but I kind of liked it at first, and now, as it's just a half of bottle left, my hand usually grabs another whisky from my cabinet. With time it became less interesting and flamboyant. It's not too drinkable and lacks in a balance department.

I gave it +5 pts for my initial impressions, but I don't think I'll be buying another bottle soon. Perhaps 18yo version is worth trying.

I've also noticed a variation. Some batches have a more noticeable "industrial" flavor, which I really like. Most probable comes from the little peat they use to flavor the barley, something like 3ppm. I guess the way in which this layer of flavor is added is not an exact science. Nevertheless, it's still one of my favorites.

I hear that there is a lot of batch variation with Bunna 12. The only sample I have had of this one I didn't care for either. With that sort of experience sometimes the best thing is to give some time and then sample it again in a couple of years.


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.


Recently the wonderful people at Bunnahabain have changed their bottling of the standard 12yo. The bottle has changed from a green to a dark brown, the ABV % was bummed up from 40% to 46.3%, and they have changed to a non-chill filtration format. Now I will start this by saying that I don't think that I have ever had the original dram, save one possible opportunity where I had a glass at the bar. The notes that follow are for the rebranded version of the starndard 12yo.

Review was done with 2oz whisky in a Glencairn glass with 5-6 drops of unchlorinated spring water all at room temp

nose... there is a vanilla note that seems quite prevalent, sherry notes, nutty mostly almond, with a hint of smoke.

palate... hint of peat...? possibly? sweet, there is good vanilla flavor and more sherry notes, almonds and a touch more smoke then on the nose. I'm also getting a fig note in there somewhere. I also get a little candied fruit.

finish... long but not too long, I rather enjoy this finish but it is giving me a little bit of a burn, might just be my tongue today as it hasn't done it in the past and I've had the bottle for a while now.

Now I know that I am going to catch some hell from people about the comment I am about to make but I'll make it anyhow. This dram strongly reminds me of the Macallan 12yo Traditional. The sherry taste that seems to shine through is quite good and the smoke makes for a nice touch and adds something to the Macallanesk flavour that I seem to be continually reminded of.

Anyhow I rather enjoyed this dram, just as I have with all the drams from this bottle previously. I would say it is one that will continue to maintain a spot on my self and probably never get too dusty...

Nice review! It's already on my wish list (mostly as a consequence of "Ralfy's whisky of the year" 2011 designation, but more-so because I've not yet tasted a "Bunna" and I'd really like to try it) - your review just makes me want it more. Jim Murray rated this new bottling pretty well and I do admire him for his stance against chill filtration and use of E150 - the industry is listening and hopefully these things will become a thing of the past so we can enjoy whiskies in all their natural glory!

RE: Macallan - if it reminds you of that, so be it! I've never tried the Macallan 12yo but it seems to me it's one of those maligned whiskies that, for whatever reason, has people not wanting to admit to liking! I really don't get it.. but anyway.


Sampled in a Glencairn with a teaspoon of spring water.

Legs: Long and shapely, like a Moulin Rouge dancer.

Nose: A strong sherry aroma with big hints of fruit, certainly sultana and maybe cooking apples, toffee, a slight salty note hiding in the background. Very pleasant and warming smell.

Taste: Strong sherry arrival with fruit again and vanilla and as with the nose an undercurrent of salt.

Finish: A long lingering finish with the salt fading slowing but the fruit and vanilla remaining.

Overall an extremely pleasant dram for the winter fire side particularly I should imagine at Christmas when the turkey is massacred, the christmas pudding is laying like a brick on your stomach and you've bumped off your relations (home I mean, not killed them!)and you're settling down to watch a film you've seen several times before, probably 'It's a Wonderful Life' (but who cares you''ll no doubt nod off before long anyway).

At this stage in my whisky journey I don't care for the heavily peated Islay whiskies, so for me this represents a lot more enjoyable alternative to your Ardbegs and Laphroaigs.

This sounds right up my street- do you think it is the breakthrough "gateway Islay" and you'll be drinking Ardbeg with the best of them come Xmas??!! This will be going on the wishlist, and if I'm not mistaken Ralfy made this his whisky of the year last year...

Hi Smokey, Yes appartently Ralfy is a big fan. I stiil think that the bridge between this whisky and Ardbeg is still a a wide one and maybe 'A Bridge Too Far' (another seen several times Christmas special movie) hehe. Been to Santa's grotto at Skipton lately? I'm planning a trip soon for some Christams treats, can't wait! Cheers.


I really, really didn't like the original 12 year. I thought the idea of a tamer Islay malt a nice change of pace, but the way it was presented, I though it came off weak and boring. How is the updated bottling? Well, let's just say someone climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, sat on the ledge, and pushed the ladder over.

The nose reminds me a lot of Springbank 10 year, with a burnt component. There certainly a fruity note that is like candied strawberries, soaked in sherry. This stuff does need a little time to open up, otherwise it seems a little one dimensional (give it the time it deserves).

The palate is rather complex; lots of fruit/floral flavors, mixed with a coal like smoke (not so much peaty), pepper, sea salt, and a slight creaminess are also detected. I'm not too sure what I think of the type of smoke in this stuff. It's interesting to be sure, but I feel there is something a little off about it. It's like eating a christmas cake next to a stove where someone started to scorch something. Different.

Finish wise, it's not too long. A little of the creme note stays with the fresh vegetal note until all traces are gone.

The stuff is strides better than the first bottling, but there is still something that seems a little off (it may just be me). It's different from other Islay malts, but can now hold it's own against any of them (in it's own right). Kind of a like a mix between Ardbeg Uigeadail and Springbank 10 year.


Everything about this dram was 'bi-polar' or mixed up. It appeared to be all over the spectrum in what it offered the nose, palate and finish. I bought the bottle July 16, 2011 upon the recommendation of a liquor store owner in Colorado, USA. Searching for a new Islay experience, he simply inferred that it would be good, pointing to HP 18 as his favorite (anyone who reads reviews could make that statement without ever having tasted a drop). I should have listened more cloesely to his commentary, because, in retrospect, he was simply trying to make a sale and wasn't really a die-hard Scotch devotee. If the store carries Laphroaig 10, but not the 18... buyer beware of the opinion of the salesman, they are simply selling alchohol without appreciation for the spirit!!! Nose: soft, yet stale vanilla with sweetness. Palate: hint of bold strength on the tongue, light tingle, some acidity. Finish: light smoke and peat, plastic wouldn't be incorrect, maybe even melting plastic.... yes. OVERALL: I believe this offers nothing noteworthy and has little character when compared to Laphroaig, Highland Park and the Western Highland Oban. Suggestion... with regard to Scotch, the devotee, ecclectic, and even eccentric drinker knows his/her dram. Stick with the heavy drinker who has the pocketbook and palate to afford the best, and the open-ness to appreciate wonder-ous variety and quality!


I purchased this bottle after hearing Mr. Ralfy give a wonderful review of this affordable Whisky. The moment it hit my nose I could tell this was not my style. Then I tasted it... oil, plastic, manufacturing, quirky sweetness. Not at all what I was expecting.

I was so put off that I couldn't help think that this bottle was somehow flawed, or like the wine guys like to say "corked."

I've since had a couple more drams just to make sure it wasn't a fluke event. It wasn't.

Now on ebay: "9/10s of a Bunnahabhain 12 YO for sale, cheap!"

Hi @rharlow, you might want to start by comparing your ABV to the ABV that Ralfy"s bottle has ... Bunnahabhain recently raised the ABV from 40 to 46%. I have the 40% bottle and I like it very much ... soft, fruity, smells like brownies, no peat, very delicious. Somehow, your ABV didn't get displayed in your review. I would consider helping you dispose of your bottle :)

Bad cork or bad batch perhaps? Bunna isn't my favourite distillery but I've not experienced a bad dram either.


Distinctive as the only non-peated Islay malt (although Bruichladdich also has an unpeated bottling), Bunna (pronounced boon-a-havn) is located on the eastern shore of Islay, north of Caol Ila, across the Sound of Islay from the Isle of Jura. The distillery’s water is piped from a spring, which rises from dolomite rock in the mountains, and becomes hard with dissolved calcium- and magnesium-carbonate. Because the water never flows over the island’s pervasive peat bogs, the resulting whisky is mineral, light, delicate and totally unpeated, despite the island’s penchant for heavily peated whiskies. It is said that the whisky does, however, pick up some of the briny, maritime flavors, perhaps from the sea air in coastal warehouses.

Bunnahabhain is currently re-introducing their 12-year expression with a new (dark brown) bottle and label. They are also increasing the bottling strength from 40% ABV to 46.3% ABV, and switching to non-chill-filtering. The price is also increasing by $5-$10. I’ve heard it has a little more sherry influence and a touch of smoke, and is altogether more interesting than the older bottlings (pre-2011 with a green bottle). My notes below are for the original 12-year (the green bottle).

I tasted the 12-year single malt recently at C.B. Hannegan’s in Los Gatos, CA. Funny story: My brother-in-law Louis and I were sampling drams together and I ordered this Bunna. When it arrived I was trying to identify the nutty, sweet, cooked aroma in the nose. Baked bread? No, sweeter… cinnamon rolls? No, there’s no cinnamon or nutmeg… Louis took a whiff and joined in, guessing cookies or walnuts. Suddenly and simultaneously, the answer occurred to us both, and we exclaimed “Aunt Nancy’s Pecan Pie! Yes!” Whisky sampling is always more fun in good company!

Nose: If you’re expecting peat from this Islay malt, you will be very confused: Heavy oak – like newly-lacquered furniture, cherry, vanilla. Wait… Pecan pie!!! This smells exactly like my aunt Nancy’s Thanksgiving pecan pie!

Palate: Unlike any Islay I’ve had – lots of caramel and vanilla, full body, almost no smoke or earthiness at all. Salted caramels.

Finish: Unfortunately short, mostly with oak tannins and furniture polish.

Conclusion: This is a good middle-of-the-road dram, mostly notable for its diversion from traditional Islay peat character. Worth a try, although there are better non-peated, non-sherried malts (Speyside, Lowlands) in this price range. Keep an eye out for the new (brown bottle) 12 year – that’s definitely worth a try.

I am indeed new, @LeFrog. I've been blogging for a few months now, but only just joined connosr. Thanks for the comment - I think Bunna is an interesting novelty: unpeated Islay malt indeed. I DO wish it were a little cheaper, since it's really competing with similar-tasting Speysides/Highlanders and not really with the other Islays. It's definitely something that every whisky-lover should taste, though.

Good review there @ScotchNoob, are you new round here? Bunna is a bit less sexy than the other Islays but shouldn't be overlooked.


I have quickly become a big fan of Black Bottle and was interested in trying the main offering from its largest component. This is not your common Islay.

Nose: Raisin, Nail polish, Vanilla, Old lady's perfume, Musty book. Medium legs.

Palate: Salty, Stewed prunes, Orange zest, Ginger, Oak. Its very light bodied and fairly smooth.

Finish: Short and flat. White pepper tingle, followed by Hay and Sage.

I wasn't blown away by this one. It isn't bad, nor is it great. The nose is great and the ginger on the palate is nice, the finish left me wanting. For me, this will make a fine dram for a hot late summer's day. Though, once this bottle is gone I'll stick with black bottle to cover this flavor profile since it really shines in that blend in a way it doesn't on its own.


Honestly, this reminds me of earthy, lightly-peated Glenfiddich....not sure if I am a big fan of this one.

Hi @rwbenjey, hmmm, this review didn't tell me very much; could you expound a little more on your experience with Bunnahabhain 12 ? I haven't tasted Glenfiddich (12 yr I presume) yet. Thanks.

It's a very mild-mannered Islay that tastes like a lightly peated, earthy, highland scotch. Very unique, but not too interesting too me.


Not your typical Islay malt, but a really nice dram all the same. Initial nose has butter, smoke and sweet nuttiness. Also a bit of burning wood. Adding water releases some hay aromas. On the palate, I'm reminded of honey on toast. With some burnt cereal and a touch of tobacco. With water, the flavours become more floral, with grassy hints and some more wood notes. The finish is smooth and malty.

A very enjoyable, drinkable dram, one that could be enjoyed anytime. A good 'mid-weeker'!

Nice whisky and good description! To that I would add good "all-nighter" - first time I tried this was staying up to watch results of '97 election. Portillo loses his seat, yay, let's have another!


Fresh nose. Honey and ginger. Fruity with hints of dry sherry. Really mild, the smoke is only noticeable in the distance and peat is virtually absent. Mouth: mellow and really sweet. Just a tad smokey. Weak attack (it seems over-diluted) but it gets more powerful after a few seconds. More smoke and coffee in the aftertaste. A tiny bit of peat as well (or was that just imagination?).

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