Home DistilleriesBunnahabhain SMS Classic Review: Bunnahabhain 12 Year

SMS Classic Review: Bunnahabhain 12 Year

by Chris Perugini

For the first SMS Classic Review of 2021, I’m going with a long-time favorite pour that’s not only well-crafted, but also sits at a very attractive price point for both newcomers and aficionados alike. I have reviews published of both Bunnahabhain 18 Year and 25 Year but somehow, the 12 Year never made it to the site until now. As always with SMS Classic Reviews, this review is preserved exactly as it was when I first wrote it 8 years ago. This was shortly after the entire OB range went through a complete revamp. The series all got a bump up from 40 to 46.3% ABV and was made non-chill filtered. It was a great time to be a Bunnahabhain fan and still is to this day.

Original review from 2012:

Bunnahabhain is an usual Islay whisky in that its offerings aren’t your typical “box of band-aids thrown into a campfire” flavor profile typical of the region. Bunnahabhain is the northernmost Islay distillery and uses the Margadale spring as its water source. About a year or two ago, Bunnahabhain replaced the old 40% alcohol by volume 12 year whisky with a new offering at 46.3%. This higher strength version allows the whisky to be non chill filtered. The new version also has no added coloring (the natural color is primarily from sherry casks).

Photo by Swissky Lad

Bunnahabhain 12 Year - 46.3% ABV
Category Notes
Appearance Just a hair under Amber.
Nose Ok, there's a lot going on here. As far as fruit goes, there’s a mashup of citrus, cherry, over-ripened apples and pears. You can smell the sea air in this one. I’d go so far as to call it earthy, but there’s no peat. Some oakiness is trying to fight for attention in the background. Water softens the fruit and brings out a slight cereal note. There’s a leathery quality to the nose now. After a few more minutes, I can pick out banana peel.
Taste Wow, the fruit jumps out as the clear winner in the flavor race. The cherries and orange are out in full force. Some spiciness that I wasn’t expecting also makes an appearance. After a good 10-15 seconds, I FINALLY find the vanilla that I knew was hiding somewhere in this whisky. With water, the fruitiness is completely different. A more balanced mix of apples and oranges, but it’s not the fruity kick in the face from a few minutes ago. The earthiness is easier to pick out with water as well.
Finish The sea salt and earth really take over on the finish. It’s short…surprisingly short in fact, but pretty cool considering how fruity the taste is and how quickly it vanishes.
Overall Thoughts I like this whisky a lot. I hear that people liked the old 40% ABV version more than the new one at 46.3%, but I just don’t see how that’s possible. There’s nothing like the oily goodness of a non-chill filtered whisky and there’s plenty of flavor in this one. I prefer Bunna 12 neat, though it’s still excellent with a few drops of water. The only reason I tried this in the first place is because it was Ralfy’s whisky of the year for 2010. After watching his review, I went out and bought a bottle the next day and I’m really glad I did. If you’re afraid to venture into Islay whiskies, give Bunnahabhain a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Total Score 88/100

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