Bunnahabhain’s 12 year old was given a welcome makeover in 2010 with the ABV increased up to 46.3%, a move to non-chill filtration and natural colouring, and a new opaque smoked glass bottle design. Recently, the distillery has had a very subtle branding change (they’ve joined up the letters of Bunnahabhain) and introduced the new Stiureadair as, what’s described as a ‘partial replacement’ for the 12 year old – meaning a release of a similar style to ease some of the pressure that is presumably being currently made of their stocks sherry casks. Nevertheless, presently the 12 year old is still readily available.
Nose: Fruity and expressive. Toffee apples and a basket of red berries (raspberries in particular) are reinforced with sherry aromas – chocolate cake and rum-soaked raisins. The fruitiness is joined by some earthy spices - root ginger and light cardamom. There’s some light deck polish and saw dust here, both pleasant and pleasing to taste in a whisky only 12 years of age.
Taste: Still fruity, but deeper sherried notes are coming out to play. Green apples and red berries marry nicely to toffee and raisins and are joined by some rich and expansive sherry flavours – brown sugars, coffee and walnut cake, dark chocolate, ginger snap biscuits – yes, it’s all rather like a patisserie here. Gentle polish remains in play and is joined by a few pinches of white pepper.
Finish: Short, and with a gentle progressive fade into brown sugars and placid ginger spicing.
Bunnahabhain 12 year old is a super solid entry-point into the Islay-based distillery. Displaying characters not usually associated with Islay (a lack of peat smoke), and, whilst gentle in its approach, no less expressive for it. Fruity, sweet and rich, with no real jarring moments. Well priced, well made, and easy to recommend. Just under £44 from Master of Malt as of writing.