Yet another peated Bunnahabhain from 1997, this one from a bourbon hogshead. The bottler is Signatory, who are quite ubiquitous in the US, and this is from their “Unchillfiltered” line, which is usually at 46% (I think there are some store exclusives in this line which may be at higher strengths), and which usually comprises very good value. I’ve had some ordinary bottlings in this series but most have ranged from good to very good.
Along with the official 12 yo and 18 yo, and the peated-sherried from Svenska Eldvatten that was the subject of my last review, this Signatory bottle was part of a four-bottle Bunnahabhain tasting some friends and I did this past weekend, and while it ranked fourth in aggregate everyone quite liked it. As we nosed each whisky (blind), I asked everyone to write down three words each to describe their first impressions (without any discussion) and recorded those to see what general clusters of aromas we got. In my notes below, I reproduce these for the nose, and add my impressions from tonight; the notes for the palate and finish, and my overall comments and rating are from my pour tonight.
Bunnahabhain 12, 1997 (46%, Signatory UCF, hogshead #5335; from my own bottle
(Group Tasting Notes)
Farmy; moldy leaves.
Acidic; vinegar; astringent; astringent cleaner.
Pine; lemon Pledge; lemon/citrus.
Ocean spray; brine; salt.
Apple; pear; stone fruit.
These are not the only things we got on the nose, but just the first two or three things impressions each person got (for example, everyone thought it was smoky–smoke just wasn’t the first, second or third thing everyone recorded).
Not as farmy at first sniff as I found it on Saturday when the bottle was freshly opened, but still, there’s something organic about it. Dry smoke, but not as astringent either. Still acidic, but some musky fruit too now–over-ripe pears maybe. Moves very quickly to a very clean and appetizing briny quality. Sweet peat. Not particularly phenolic. Gets quite assertively salty with time but after resting a little longer the salt/brine and sweet peat are in nice balance.
Palate: Sweet peat, with a big peppery wave of dry smoke coming crashing down behind it. Some kind of fruit here too–pears? melon? The smoke gets ashy and a bit acidic (lemon, not vinegar). Sweet and stony at the end.
Finish: Medium. Ashy smoke that turns sweet. That musky fruit hangs around for a bit too.
Comments: A nice companion to the Svenska Eldvatten bottling. Very similar smoky aromas despite the different cask types, and a similar farmy quality. This is less complicated, but it’s quite pleasurable: I don’t think this bottle is going to hang around very long. And though I think I prefer the SE quite clearly, if this had been bottled at cask strength as well, it would likely have given the SE bottle a run for its money. It’s also very clear that some of the more astringent qualities the group and I got on Saturday from the freshly opened bottle have already dissipated with the bottle sitting close to the 1/2 way mark for two days. More evidence of how different a whisky can be at different stages/states of its “life” and how variable as a result tasting notes can be.
Rating: 84 points.