Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (Archives)

Bunnahabhain 1990, ArchivesArchives is Whiskybase’s line of proprietary releases—they’re only available at their store and are always excellent value for money. That said, not everything they’ve released has garnered rave reviews; and this Bunnahabhain, released this year as part of their “Fishes of Samoa” series, is one that not everyone seems to have loved. References have been made, I think, to the dread beast “sulphur”, and you know how it is with us whisky geeks when references to things like sulphur and chill-filtration and E-150 get tossed around. As a result perhaps this bottle is still hanging around—not usually a fate that befalls intensely sherried Bunnahabhains, as this one’s colour advertises it to be.

I don’t have a very high sulphur sensitivity myself so I’m approaching it with optimism (as I do everything, really—that’s the kind of guy I am). I have a few older Bunnahabhains on my shelf but have a bit of a gap in the low 20s, age-wise, and it would be nice to find something affordable to plug it for a mega-Bunnahabhain vertical tasting I have in mind.

Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (47.9%; Archives; sherry butt 52; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Biscuity malt, toffee, raisins, light caramel and just a hint of gunpowder. After a minute there’s orange peel and a hint of Cherry Coke as well. Gets earthier, more organic as it sits with notes of mushroom liquor and light soy sauce. Very nice. With even more time it gets quite intensely raisiny. Water makes the citrus a bit brighter and then unlocks even more fruit: figs, apricot.

Palate: Slightly tannic entry that leads into the richer and sweeter notes from the nose—more orange peel here, more raisins—and then transitions into brine. This is textbook sherried whisky: you’ve got your raisins, your orange peel, a bit of toffee—all that’s missing is the fudge. Well, water doesn’t cause fudge to appear but, as on the nose, emphasizes the citrus and then brings the apricot to the party.

Finish: Medium-long. The brine eases into a mix of orange and lemon and there’s a leathery quality at the end as well. With more time some wood emerges late as well. With water the stickier notes from the palate last longer and there’s a bit of dark chocolate at the end too.

Comments: This is rather nice and it’s an incredible value. I’m getting one now and suggest that if you like heavily sherried whisky you do too. There’s no sulphur taint here that I can make out (and I did make it out in my last bottle of the OB 12). The only thing that keeps it from the next level is a slight lack of intensity (and also those earthier notes on the palate and finish).

Rating: 88 points.

8 thoughts on “Bunnahabhain 23, 1990 (Archives)

  1. Sounds decent; I’ll have to consider it. Adelphi Selection has a heavily sherried Bunna 21yr 1991 that I liked (although I don’t have detailed tasting notes at this time), but it’s closer to $180.


  2. MAO, I’ve been enjoying a 24 sherried Bunna from BBR (cask 4110) and am getting concerned I can’t find another bottle. Is there anything at any price point thats similar to this cask strength single cask sherried Islay malt? Its the one bottle I’m desparate to replace.


    • Hey Alpha. If that’s the Bunnahabhain BBR I think it is, its fate was sealed when a set of West Coast whisky geeks relieved Total Wine of every last bottle. Though I was not among their number, they shared a dram with me. Some really good sherry in there. Total Wine has a 26yo BBR Bunny, but that one’s $200!


      • Michael,

        Yes, it was the Total Wine 24 yo BBR Bunna. – I didn’t mention the seller since I didn’t know if MAO was going to be OK with it. That news brings pain to my heart; I really liked it.

        I actually called Total Wine to inquire about the bottle’s availability anywhere in the country and the rep was quick to tell me that it is illegal to ship stuff between their stores from other states and I could only buy from stores I could physically get to. Not sure how this law makes sense or even how it’s adhered to since its the same chain. Do you know if the 26 yo BBR Bunna is any good? I would even try the 26yo BBR Bunna but alas the local Total Wine stores don’t even have that. They have the 7 year old BBR Bunna in large quantities though; I wonder if the West Coast geeks will buy that up.



        • I think Total Wine has some sort of deal with BBR for US releases. The 26yo Bunna is $200 so I didn’t give it a second look. If I hear good things from trusted sources, I’ll report back. But Total Wine’s inability to move bottles between stores (even within a state) is a pain the ass. They’ve lost out on my business a few times due to that.


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