My notes under the “Quick Hits” rubric are of whiskies of which I do not have large enough samples for anything other than a strong impression at best. As such they do not carry ratings and should be seen as even more contingent and unreliable than my usual reviews. Tonight I am tasting three Bunnahabhains–one very old one from 1968, one old one from 1986, and one very young one from 2006. All samples purchased from Whiskybase (I think–see below). There’s only a tiny bit of the 1968 left (I tasted it as soon as I got it some months ago). I wouldn’t normally record notes even for “Quick Hits” for something I am tasting so little of but as the other two are Bunnahabhains far apart in age I couldn’t resist throwing in one even older than the 1986 as well.
Bunnahabhain 42, 1968 (43.8%; Whiskyfässle, joint bottling with Whiskybase; refill sherry cask; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Polished wood, ripe bananas, honey; a little hint of wood spice too. With time and air there’s some apricot and some oranges; get a little dusty too. The citrus expands with more time.
Palate: As on the nose, honey and polished wood make the first impression. In fact, it’s pretty much on the palate as it was on the nose. There’s a hint of tropical fruit below the wood but this is already gone.
Finish: Medium. The wood gets more toasted on the finish and there’s more citrus here.
Bunnahabhain 25, 1986 (54.3%; Duncan Taylor for the Casqueteers; finished in an octave cask; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Mild nutty, toffee notes and then some fruit coming up from under those–oranges and something brighter too. Gets briny and there’s increasing leatheriness/dusty spiciness. The fruitiness gets stronger with time and there’s some polished wood here too. With more time and air there’s a bright note reminiscent of mint or aniseed, or is it pine? I’m guessing this is wood influence from the octave cask finish. Water brings the fruit to the front
Palate: Briny, leathery, sweet. Oh, that was unexpected–I thought the fruit was going to be leading the charge but, in fact, it doesn’t show up on the first sip. And it’s not really there on the second or third either–I’m mostly just getting spicy wood. Time to add a tiny drop of water. Nope, not a lot of fruit with water either.
Finish: Medium. Mostly spicy with some leathery, briny notes. Not much change with water.
Bunnahabhain 5, 2006 (61.1%; Archives; bourbon hogshead 800041; from a purchased sample*)
Nose: Oh my, I’d forgotten–if I ever knew it–that this is peated. Strong, acidic, farmy peat, but also a warm vanilla note and then it turns quite cereally and sweet. A little later there’s a slightly acrid, rubbery aspect to the smoke and some pencil lead too. Water brings out something lemony (still dirty).
Palate: Not as hot as expected from the abv. Farmy peat here too, but it’s quite sweet as well. Quite reminiscent in some ways of the Signatory UCF peated 12 yo I reviewed some months ago. It tastes young, yes, and there’s not much development but I rather like it. Gets quite salty as it goes. Water mellows the salt on the palate and finish.
Finish: Long. Salt, salt, salt (and farmy peat).
Comments: These whiskies are so far apart in age, cask type and probably distillation regime as well that it probably doesn’t make a terrible lot of sense to have compared them. The ultra-young, peated 2006 might as well have been from a different distillery (but I did like it a lot more than I was expecting to, and if it were still around I’d get a bottle). The 1986 disappointed a little but then it might be a lot better with a larger pour, more time and more room for experimenting with water. The 1968 was rather evanescent this time around, as expected, so please don’t pay much attention to the notes–I did like it a lot when I first tried the lion’s share of this sample. So ends my attempt at a Serge-like vertical–a bit of a failure, I’d say.
*I think. Menno and CJ always throw in a couple of bonus samples for everyone who orders from them and this might possibly be one of those (I’ve had it for a while and so can’t remember).