I have not reviewed an official Bunnahabhain in a while—not since the 25 yo, almost two years ago—and this recent special release seems like as good a choice as any for a return. It was released late last year and has been very well received online. It goes without saying in our era of hype, that it all disappeared very quickly.
As per the distillery, this was matured for 11 years in ex-bourbon casks and then transferred to first-fill Pedro Ximinez sherry casks for another three years—which I would say would put it in “double maturation” rather than “finish” territory. I can’t remember if I’ve had, let alone reviewed, any other Bunnahabhains that involved PX casks but I’m intrigued. Bunnahabhain’s spirit plays well with sherry casks, and in theory, at least, the richer, sweeter PX character should be a good match as well. Let’s see if that indeed proves to be the case.
Bunnahabhain 14, 2003 (54.3%; PX cask finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Graphite, oak, alcohol. A bit closed at first. There’s something organic (rotting) under the top layer and then some red fruit (raspberries, cherries) and a hint of something meaty but it doesn’t all come together. More acidic with water but no more balanced.
Palate: Generic sherried notes with an accent on simple sweetness. The texture is a bit too thin. On the second sip the sherry separates significantly, with a sweeter layer floating above a more tannic one. With more time it gets a bit sour and sharp (a mild version of the not-very yummy type of sulphur). Can water rescue it? A little bit, yes: the sulphur gets pushed back and the whole gets more integrated but nothing else emerges.
Finish: Medium. Nothing new or interesting here. And the same with water.
Comments: I had high hopes for this based on some reports I’d seen online but this is a bit of a mess. Generic at best, thin and threatening to fall apart at worst. This was sold for more than $100?
Rating: 75 points.