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I consider Bunnahabhain to be one of Islay’s hidden gems. Their products boast strong salt and soft smoke, which isn’t for everybody. But they have their own style, and consistently produce quality whiskies. I loved the 12, and was eager to try an older Bunna. But the 18 is not just an older version of the 12 yo. For me the 12 is the experimental and vibrant younger sibling. Oppositely the 18 is the calmer, more refined, but perhaps less bold or exciting older sibling.
Nose: As expected, this is briny and coastal, with soft smoke and rich caramel. Then we get some rather muffled dark sherry notes, mostly sultanas and dark fruits. There’s also ginger, blood oranges, cinnamon, wine tannins, molasses, dark chocolate, and damp leaves. A previous review mentioned bran, which is also a BIG part of this whisky.
Palate: Thick mouthfeel. That bran from the nose really characterizes the palate. There’s also big salt, cinnamon, malt, ginger, wood spice, some stewed fruit, and dark chocolate.
Finish: More bran, malt, and chocolate. The oak is powerful in a very controlled way. Big coffee, cherry wood, star anise, Irish Cream, molasses, and almonds.
This is very different from the 12. The coastal, gently smoky house style is ever-present, but this is much sturdier. I like it. The bran note here is really special, and I also enjoy the calm, but powerful wood notes. But when compared to the 12, there’s by far less dynamism here.
I absolutely loved this the first time I tried the 18, but after revisiting it several times, I haven’t noticed any interesting or new developments. I think this is almost TOO sturdy. There’s very little change that happens in the bottle or in the glass. This tastes the same now as it did when I first opened it. Once you’ve tasted it once, you’ve tasted it 100 times. The consistency of flavours and the controlled quality of this whisky do give the 18 a certain elegance, but I feel it’s sacrificed that vitality and dynamism that makes the 12 such a beautiful and interesting drink. But this is still a distinctive and absolutely delicious whisky. Recommended.