In 2021 Bunnahabhain distillery released a new Cask Strength version of its Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old. It takes its inspiration from the visitor tastings in their Warehouse 9. In a way this allows us to try Bunnahabhain in its purest form, without any dilution or filtering. The distillery arrives a little late to the party, I’d say, as so many other distilleries offer a cask strength version of (some of) their core range expressions.
From what I can find this cask strength version has a slightly bigger percentage of sherry casks in its recipe, compared to the standard release.
We try the original 2021 edition. I suppose a new one will arrive later this year.
Bunnahabhain 12 yo – Cask Strength (55,1%, OB 2021)
Nose: malty notes, yeasty touches and butter toffee / caramel aromas are the first to appear. These aromas are quite bloated and take away the freshness. There’s a leafy and slightly dirty edge from the sherry casks as well (something I also found in the regular Bunnahabhain 12 Years). Other than that we find nice black peppercorn aromas and some raisins. Then also lemon and orange zest. Hints of ginger cookies as well.
Mouth: quite thick and oily, with lots of punch. Black pepper and warming oak in front row. Then heavily infused black tea and a subtle saline note. Dark chocolate follows, alongside herbs and a few charred notes. Still a sulphury edge. Tobacco leaves and roasted nuts. There’s a nice kick but more astringency as well.
Finish: long, really spicy and herbal. Also salty notes, liquorice and a hint of cold coffee.
Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of the 12 Year Old in the first place. This cask strength version adds little to change my mind, except more alcohol and wood spice. Is bigger always better? Balance is also important and here it isn’t perfect. Let’s just conclude this is not the whisky I was hoping for. Most bottles seem to be sold anyway, but TWE is still selling 3cl samples in case you want to double-check.