By Father John Rayls
Since 1881, Bunnahabhain has been the Islay scotch very few people could pronounce. It’s actually spoken as boona-HAB-venn. It’s also a Scotch whisky that many bourbon drinkers, like myself, can get behind.
Ironically, Bunnahabhain has the largest production capacity of any distillery on Islay, but it uses that to produce a lot of unpeated and moderately peated whisky. The distillery saw a major adjustment to their scotch in 1963 towards less peat, reflecting the changing taste preferences of their customers. Much of that production goes into blended whiskies such as Cutty Shark and Famous Grouse, but that doesn’t stop the distillery from having a respectable single malt line.
The bottle has a beautiful black and somewhat opaque appearance, with black and gold label displaying a mariner reflecting its sea heritage. The liquid inside keeps its own natural color of light copper, and is bottled at 92.6 proof. You can’t help but notice the golden highlights as the light reflects through the scotch. The legs are long and slow and beautiful and demonstrate the true nature of this whisky.
The nose is sweet, with some smoky oak. Some slight alcohol burn can be detected when inhaled deeply, and there is also light saltiness on top of some malt.
I really enjoyed the taste, and found this to be a complex dram. The first sensation is a luxurious creamy mouthfeel. The palate experience is primarily at mid-tongue. It begins with a sweet sherry experience that is quickly crowded out with light smoke. The smoke is more like distant campfire smoke rather than a big, peaty presence. There is a salty, nutty, honey experience mixed in as well before transitioning to the finish.
The finish is almost entirely at the upper back of the mouth without losing the tongue activation. It’s as if there are two distinct finishes working at the same time. It’s a spicy closing at the back while keeping the curiously soft honey action on the tongue. The sweet spice finish is detectable for an extended period of time.
Bunnahabhain Islay 12 Year Old Single Malt is an excellent scotch for sipping. It’s also great for those whiskey drinkers intimidated by Scotch. At the same time, it provides the complexity for an experienced Scotch lover to enjoy. It’s an easy drinking whisky appropriate for any occasion, and its one that will be remembered.
This Scotch can be found for under $50.00 and is with your time and effort to find it.