Whisky Connosr

Bunnahabhain 20 Year Old Palo Cortado Finish (1997)

I think I get it now

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@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

12th Dec 2020


Bunnahabhain 20 Year Old Palo Cortado Finish (1997)
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Every time there's an online discussion about Bunnahabhain, I'm hesitant to comment. It's a whisky that generally leaves me a bit confused. None of the Bunnahabhain offerings I've tried have been bad but their whiskies carry a hefty premium here in Ontario. A premium price tag for what are, to me, ordinary whiskies? I don't get it. Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying Bunnahabhain 12, 18, or Stiuireadair are bad whiskies. I'm saying Bunnahabhain 12 sells for about $20-$30 more than most other 10-12 year old single malts and judging strictly based on quality I'm not sure why that is. According to the internet, it's probably because I'm an idiot who doesn't know what good whisky is. I suppose that's one plausible explanation. Luckily John MacPherson, a brand ambassador for Bunnahabhain (and other Distell brands), made it his personal mission to provide me with a Bunnahabhain expression that would wow me. Challenge accepted; let's see what this one is all about.

Tasting notes: from a Highland whisky glass

  • Nose: raisins and fresh grapes (not often you get both aromas, but there it is), brine, thick caramel, dates, something slightly herbal in the background (fresh thyme?), a faint aroma of fresh raspberries and other red fruits (strawberries?) develops with time.
  • Palate: rich, oily and thick texture, dates, sultanas, walnuts, oak spices (cinnamon, cloves), brine, a touch of smoke, some caramel and vanilla, and just a hint of those red fruits
  • Finish: long and lingering, vanilla, pear, a little bit of peat and smoke, brine lingering alongside a faint green herbal note and some minerality that's slightly reminiscent of Talisker or Kilkerran. Fantastic.
  • With water: the aromas are less fruity and the sweetness of salted caramel comes out, water also brings the faint smokiness to the nose with that herbal note hanging around without overtaking anything. It also gets a bit smokier on the palate with water and the finish still lingers but it gets more drying and a little tannic. I think I prefer it without water. Even at 54.9% abv, it's easy to sip.
  • Thoughts: This is not your typical Islay peat bomb but there is a little peat and smoke there. The thick, chewy texture is the real star here. This is a pleasure to sip. I'm glad I found at least one Bunnahabhain that made me react à la Owen Wilson (Oh wow !), but if you find one of these beauties it ain't going to be cheap. A quick Google search shows the average price for this bottle is $520 or so in the U.S.A. That said, if you're trying to impress someone with a very discerning palate, this one should do the trick. Well done, Bunnahabhain.

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Nozinan commented

Nice review. I like the declaration up front that you received an industry sample. It's a controversial topic in some corners.

On the one hand I would love to be respected enough to be the recipient of such samples. On the other hand, I already have enough whisky samples to keep me busy for a decade...

3 years ago 2Who liked this?

cricklewood commented

This sounds delicious and intriguing, I'm hit & miss with Bunna, some are really lovely others just ok.

Distel has been going overboard with the prices on their special editions though

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@cricklewood I agree 100%. Even some of their basic offerings are a bit crazy here in Ontario. Bunna 12 & Tobermory 12 are both $90-$95. That’s a bit excessive, imho.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Nozinan I’m not sure if I’m “respected”. I’m just active and vocal on the FB whisky discussion groups.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

Astroke commented

@cricklewood agreed, although I pulled the trigger on the Deanston 1997 Paolo Cortado. Was somewhat high priced, although secondary has now exceeded retail. Tried a 2oz sample and it was very good.

3 years ago 1Who liked this?

BlueNote commented

@OdysseusUnbound The Tobermory 12 and the Bunna 12 are even dopier prices out here. Both over $100 after tax at the till. Both available in Alberta for around $75 or less.

I took a 1/3 share in a bottle of Bunnahabhain Manzanilla Cask. It cost me $90 and I don't like it. The influence of the Manzanilla cask is so prevalent that it tastes more like wine than whisky. I really like the 12, and the Toiteach. The 18 not so much.

Thanks for the review on the 20 year old. I somehow don't think I'll be getting that one for Christmas.

3 years ago 2Who liked this?