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 a scotch whisky that many bourbon drinkers, like myself, could get behind. Located on the northeast edge of the Isle of Islay, it is one of the most northern of the Islay distilleries. Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky has a long and remarkable history. Throughout its timeline, it has managed to fly under the radar while continuing to produce its own distinct version of Islay scotch. There was a major adjustment to their scotch in 1963 making it much less peated. Some might even say it became non-peated reflecting the changing taste preferences of their customers. Since that time, the flavor profile has surprisingly remained almost identical particularly when compared to other scotch producers. This whisky spent much of its early years being used as a blend across the industry, but particularly in bottom-shelf (basement?) whiskies such as Cutty Shark and Famous Grouse. Don’t let this fool you. They are now producing very respectable scotch whisky.
The bottle has a beautiful black and somewhat opaque appearance with a black and gold label displaying a mariner reflecting its sea heritage. It has its own natural color of light copper and is bottled at 92.6 proof. The legs are long and slow and beautiful and demonstrate the true nature of this whisky. You can’t help but notice the golden highlights as the light reflects through the scotch. The nose is readily apparent and is sweet with some smokey oak. Some slight alcohol burn can be detected when inhaled deeply and there is also light saltiness on top of some malt.
I really enjoy the taste. The first sensation is a luxurious creamy mouthfeel. This is a complex scotch. It begins with a sweet sherry experience that is quickly crowded out with light smoke. It’s light, but definitely present. The smoke is more like distant campfire smoke rather than a true peat presence. There is a salty, nutty, honey experience mixed in as well before transitioning to the finish. The palate experience is primarily at mid-tongue. 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 spicey 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.
It seems Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (12 Year) is an excellent scotch for sipping. It’s great for those whiskey drinkers intimidated by scotch. At the same time, it provides the complexity for an experienced lover of scotch 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. Take a journey by the sea and enjoy a dram with my best regards!