Archives 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.