Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old
Taste Score: 95.5
Category: Single malt scotch, 18 Year Old
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
Marketers will tell you that a great story will connect with consumers moreso than a great product. Big distilleries from Scotland and Kentucky have been using this logic from the very beginning with stories of prohibition, the "evil" taxmen, and family history. The problem with today's crowded whisky scene is these stories start sounding the same.
Bunnahabhain is learning that a story doesn't always need characters and history (though the distillery does have both). A distillery with a strong opinion on the "right" way to make whisky can be equally successful in engaging their audience.
Bunnahabhain is targeting whisky enthusiasts with their story. Bunnahabhain doesn't believe in chill filtration. They don't believe in coloring their scotch with caramel. Instead, it's all about higher proof single malt scotch. For me, the less you do to scotch, the more likely you're tasting the whisky straight from the barrel. Naturally, you know I'm going to love it.
Despite the Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old being available, Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old is my favorite of their aged releases. The 18 seems to be the sweet spot of youthful whisky balanced with dark rich characteristics of a well-aged product. The distillery also has a series of No Age Statement (NAS) whiskies that successfully explore the range of flavor that can be produced at the distillery.
Still, out of all these, I'll go back to the 18 year old. If you love sherry-forward scotch, this will be your jam.
Nose: Cherry, malasses, brown sugar bordering on caramel, and a wonderful sandy saltiness that reminds me of standing on the beach with a gentle breeze of salt water against my face. The brown sugar turns toward caramel, and the cherry hangs on. It's chocolate cherry cake, basically, where much of the nose comes from those baked cherries. The smokiness is distant, but wonderfully present.
Palate: The palate is best described as a multi-course meal. This whisky doesn't rush the first course of the palate. The rich sherry creaminess hangs much longer than most. Cinnamon spice, dark chocolate, and a lovely fattiness moves through the middle of the palate (the second course!). The barley shines through the middle of the profile despite all these intense flavors. We move toward caramel peppery spice toward the finish (third course). That finish never does leave, and it's wonderfully dry. A layer of it compliments the second and third pour.
Conclusion: This Bunny 18 runs through my palate perfectly, and I'm not always a fan of sherry bombs. Some sherry bombs tend to get overly sweet. This one is intense, beautifully deep with flavor, and pushes a flavor profile I didn't think was possible. Just when I think it's getting "too sweet,” the spice hits you. Just when I think it's about to go overly spicy, the dryness settles in. With all the layers of flavor, this is a true "sipping by the fireplace" whisky. I'd share this, but I'd rather drink it in silence on my own, lost in the whisky itself. It's a whisky deserving of that much attention.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original