Birthday Chorlton – Bunnahabhain 18 year 53.4%

In many ways, this was the most interesting whisky we tried in an extra special Chorlton birthday quartet. This was exactly why it was the 1st expression that led to acquiring three additional bottles and several evenings of tastings – from London to Mumbai – where we sniffed, swished, and savoured our way through these unique bottles.

Bunnahabhain 18 year (28 Feb 2002 / 2021) Sherry Butt 53.4%

What was our impression from London in October 2022?

  • Nose – Initially very ‘fresh’ yet shy, red delicious apple skins, a hint of sherry, dry wood, a bit of tobacco leaf, something a touch sharp, then started to open up further with banana cake and brown sugar, shifted again to sour cream
  • Palate – 1st sip was harsh then it mellowed into a spicy fruity smoothie, caramel, oily with substance, then roasted nuts
  • Finish – Spice and smoke that gradually sweetens

It was full of contrasts – shy on the nose but forceful on the palate, kept shifting and changing. It is also one of those whiskies you need to spend a bit of time with… try only once and you would miss its quirky chameleon character.

The longer we spent with the Bunnahabhain, the more we appreciated it. For one London-based Whisky Lady, this was the clear favourite.

We also thought it would go well with cheese… which is exactly what I tried later in Mumbai – definitely works – particularly a nice sharp old cheddar.

How did this contrast or compare with our Mumbai tasting experiences just a month later in November 2022?

  • Nose – Lemon, mint, vanilla, asparagus, mushrooms, stewed cherries… though a bit shy it kept moving around and revealing different elements the longer it was in the glass… next was camomile, waxy, biscuits, tinned peaches, marscapone
  • Palate – Honey, apples, some forest moss and more mushrooms, pine, green chillies, milk chocolate, nutty… take too large a sip and you would be greeted with a brushfire!
  • Finish – Cloves, star anise, pine needles, green chillies, very dry, edging towards smoke

Just like our 1st experience, this Bunnahabhain is not to be underestimated. It captivated us with its curiously shifting character. For most, this was the favourite and our only regret was having to split 100ml between 8 ladies! We would have loved to add a bit more to our glass and settle down with it, see if it continued to morph or rested on a few elements.

Did this contrast much with the gents? For the most part, we agreed, adding a few further observations from our experience:

  • Nose – Began with very light iodine that one gent described as what he typically expects from a Bunna – iodine without the heavy peat of other Islay whiskies – then shifted into fruits like pomegranate, then a cantaloupe, a hint of rye bread, some raisins, followed by a camomile-based herbal tea (think Sleepy Time!)
  • Palate – Incredibly sweet, well-rounded and well-balanced, loads of different kinds of honey, milk shocolate bars
  • Finish – Very long, subtle spices

There was no doubt this is a complex whisky, well worth taking time so that could evolve through its different dimensions.

What did David have to say? The following is an extract from his email…

And, lastly, we have the official festive special – an 18-year-old sherry cask Bunnahabhain. Please note that this is available to pre-order (see note below), and that my tasting notes aren’t super-considered as I’m just going off my brief notes from the cask sample.

So, the nose on this starts with sea air, light wax and mandarin, before richer notes of buttery brioche, praline and milk chocolate covered raisins appear. Just a touch of smoke too: cigar and joss stick.

For the palate I see I’ve written “Lovely!” in my notes… Again it starts in a very clean and crisp way (red apple, pink grapefruit) before the richer development (toasted nuts, honey, Daim bars, cinnamon pastries). Slight smokiness and orange marmalade in the aftertaste.

This is proper Bunna, a great example of the distillery style, and the sherry is beautifully integrated. We got 322 bottles from this sherry butt at 53.4% and they’re available for £150 each.

I purchased this in June 2021 from Master of Malt for GBP 151 as had missed the original Chorlton direct offer in December 2020.

We’ve enjoyed exploring Chorlton’s La Nouvelle Vague series:

Here is the full set of Chorlton‘s sampled til date from the L’Ancien Régime series:

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