Bunnahabhain 23yo, 1989-2013, 44% – Abbey Whisky’s Rare Casks

Another pretty well aged whisky. I’ve seen other sites starting to call whisky of some 18 to 30 years old ‘medium aged’. I still consider that pretty old. Just to keep myself from getting to ridiculously spoiled. I also think that whisky of above 30 years old is getting dangerously close to being over aged. There are some stunning very old whiskies, but I generally feel there’s a lot of them that start to decline above 30 years old, much like myself.

Anyway, Bunnahabhain. There’s not much that needs to be said about this distillery apart from some opinion. In this case, mine is that they should tone down on the heavily peated releases (much like Jura should, I think). I feel they’re losing their unique edge and position between the other Islay malts. And however you put it, I’ve yet to taste a heavily peated Bunnahabhain that can trump any of the other Islay drams. This is generalization if there ever was that. Of course most of us can pinpoint a single Caol Ila that might be worse than a single Bunnahabhain, but in general I feel there’s no need to do the heavily peated stuff.

Especially when their drams start being so vastly great at about 23 years old (or is it because the late eighties work very well for Bunna?). I tried a 1987 one from Berry Brothers and Rudd this summer which was incredible. I’ve tried others during the last couple of years that should have gotten way more attention than they did.

Bunnahabhain 23 year old by Abbey Whisky

Bunnahabhain 23 year old by Abbey Whisky

It’s light and there’s a very gentle whiff of smoke. I find pineapple (or ‘ananas’ in EVERY other language), lemon, vanilla and a certain Islay-style herbaceousness. Like gentle scents of heather. It does get a bit drier and sharper after a few minutes with some pepper, oak and a typical Bunnahabhain nuttiness. Hazelnuts and almonds in this case.

The palate is gentle with quite some heather and pepper. Those flavors are generally pretty harsh, but in this case they’re much softer than expected. Lemon curd and vanilla too, soft oak. All a bit timid. Again, a gentle smokiness and warm/stewed pineapple, pear and grapes. Nice and fruity!

The finish is gentle (no surprise there!) and fruity. The Islay flavors of heather with a salt and oak edge are here too. Not overly long, but not short either.

Right. I just read the page on this Bunnahabhain and found that this is a peated Bunna. I detected that on tasting it too, but I don’t think this fits in the ‘Moine’ category of heavily peated ‘randomized’ whisky. It’s much too gentle for that, and the fruitiness comes before everything.

What’s also curious is that it’s bottled at cask strength but it’s only 44%. That’s pretty low for a whisky of 23 years old. It might have been a rather porous cask, but since they only released 96 bottles, it could also be a split cask and if this was the last part to be taken out (split casks are not always aged for the same length) it could lose a bit more abv too.

Anyway, it’s a very good whisky, and as the previous two Abbey Whisky releases, at a very good price too. £ 72.95 (€ 91.25) is very nicely priced nowadays for a 23 year old whisky. Maybe I should get myself one of this.

Bunnahabhain 23yo, 1989-2013, 44%, Abbey Whisky’s Rare Casks. Available at Abbey Whisky at £ 72.95

Thanks for the sample, Abbey Whisky!

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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