This is one of K&L’s cask selections for 2013, though it arrived in early 2014. They bottled a number of casks for their Faultline label, many of them at very good prices relative to age and so laden with temptation I could not resist. Alas, my random sampling of these bottles—based on what I ordered and tasted via swaps—suggested the prices may have been good for a reason. A few were pretty decent, most were mediocre, and a couple were less than mediocre. In the last category I’d place the Bowmore 16 and this Bunnahabhain (though, as you’ll see, I liked it a bit more than the Bowmore).
I’d purchased it (and some of the others) for the tastings I do for our local group—this allows me to spread the risk of unknown quantities at attractive prices around a bit (which I’m sure the few members of my group who read the blog will be very happy to know). I first opened it for our October tasting and most present were not very enthusiastic though nobody actively disliked it. I tasted it a couple of times after that and it seemed like it might be improving. Accordingly, I poured it again at our most recent tasting. Our scores and comments suggest that while we thought the nose had improved the palate and finish had degraded. This review is an amalgam of notes taken at our tasting and at a more focused session at home before emptying the bottle.
Bunnahabhain 21, 1991 (50%; Faultline; hogshead 5377; from my own bottle)
Nose: Honeyed malt and apples; a floral note as well. A little bit of acid after a minute and then sweetness that veers towards shortbread. With even more time it starts getting grassy and there’s something reminiscent of wet wool. Water kills all the interest.
Palate: Sweet and peppery at first, turning bitter with time (lime zest?). And on the second sip it’s kind of cardboardy and indistinct. Hotter than the strength would indicate. The citrus gets a little more pronounced with time and there’s some other sweeter fruit as well peeping through but it remains pretty indistinct with a metallic, grassy note expanding slowly.. A little brighter, a little spicier with water but still pretty indistinct.
Finish: Medium; mostly bitter with some of the indistinct sweetness playing around the edges.
Comments: The nose started out really nicely but in the end this is fairly generic whisky and the palate and finish fell apart in a bottle that had only been open for four months (though water does help). The age is just a number, finally—there’s nothing particularly old about its qualities; and unless you wanted a 21 yo whisky on your shelf it would not have been a good value at the $99 you would have paid for it. What easy drinking pleasures it offers can be had from far younger whisky at less than half the price. Okay, let’s hope the 2014/2015 selections I’ve ordered are quite a bit better than the 2013s were.
(I think I’ve given samples of this to both Florin and Sku and I’ll be interested to see what they thought/think of it.)
Rating: 80 points.