It was not so long ago that older Bunnahabhains of a high quality were easily found at reasonable prices from reputable bottlers. For example, at release this bottle did not cost very much more than the OB 18 yo costs now. Back then it was possible for middle-class buyers like me to purchase older whiskies and get some understanding of how maturation affects the character of whisky from a particular distillery or how the profiles of whiskies made at the same distillery in different eras vary. If I was at the point in this whisky obsession now that I was at in 2012, I would not be able to afford that experience—if I could even find it. For more in this tedious vein you might want to (re)read my post on older whisky and value in the current era and the many excellent comments on it (here). For now, however, here’s a review of a 31 yo Bunnahabhain from 1980. This was released by Whisky-Doris. I opened and finished the bottle last year and took my notes then too. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to post them.
Bunnahabhain 31, 1980 (46.3%; Whisky Doris; bourbon hogshead; from my own bottle)
Nose: Oranges, that “old whisky” metallic note, composted leaves. The citrus gets stronger as it sits and it gets a little piney as well. With time there’s some sweeter fruit (peach?). A couple of drops of water bring out more of the sweeter fruit
Palate: A little thin and flat to start but then the citrus comes in strong along with the metallic thing and quite a bit of pepper. More pepper on the second sip and it gets quite oaky too. Gets oakier/spicier as it goes on but also more bitter. With more time the sweeter fruit from the nose shows up here as well (red berries rather than peach). Water pushes the oak/bitter notes back and also improves the texture (less thin now).
Finish: Long. The bitter notes are to the fore here and then there’s a coal/soot note that builds as well. Saltier at the end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This was probably bottled a few years too late—it’s lost some oomph/depth and the texture has thinned out and the oak influence likely increased. More of the fruit and less of the bitter/oak notes on the palate and especially the finish and this would have been rather good. Better with water, I thought, despite the low strength.
Rating: 86 points.
(I thought Michael K. and Jordan D. had also reviewed this whisky but it appears it’s the 33 yo, 1980 from Whisky-Doris that they’ve reviewed.)