Review: Bunnahabhain 12 vs 18

Thank you to fellow TWS member WDMC905 for these samples. I’ve had both previously and enjoyed them but at a very early point in my scotch exploration, such that I didn’t really have the skills yet to put words to thoughts/tastes. Very happy to have samples of two Islays gems to review side by side!


Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

  • Abv: 46.3%
  • Colour: Deep Copper

Nose: Rancio, red sweets, bit of caramel, brine, coffee cake, espresso chips. Tobacco smoke wafting from far away. Plastic wrap.

Taste: Heavily salted caramel, oyster brine, caramel drizzled coffee cake. Hint of liquid smoke. Cashew oil.

Finish: Barest hint of smoke, salted cashew nut milk, brine, coffee cake, and coffee liqueur.

Conclusion: This is a pretty solid drink. It hits upon a number of different contrasting and complementary flavours, instead of being one note. I enjoyed it and for the price it’s a very solid malt. I do feel it is missing some oomph but as it stands a bottle would be worth it.

Score

82/100


Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old

  • Abv: 46.3%
  • Colour: Russet

Nose: Little bit of Sharpie ink and some brine. Watered-down berry compote cooking over a smouldering coal fire. Rum raisin. Salty buttered popcorn. Cooked corn bread. Rancio.

Taste: Malty, subdued coffee notes as if I’ve come back to a cold coffee. Coffee cake. Quite drying. Oak and some sea spray.

Finish: Long. Nice yin-yang of Salty and fruity. Bit of strong vietnamese coffee. Farmy. Red liquorice. Warm buttered popcorn.

Conclusion: It’s definitely an improvement in refinement and complexity but not enough to justify a huge increase in price.

Score

84/100


Overall Thoughts: I liked the 18 over the 12, but would not say drastically so. Both generally benefit from being 46.3%. For the price range I’d say both are pretty solid buys. Definitely not your typical Islays though.

3 thoughts on “Review: Bunnahabhain 12 vs 18

  1. Cool comparision. I overlooked Bunnahabhain for far too long and only discovered ’em recently, when I tried two single cask releases of theirs at tasting events. I really loved those drams, especially a strong chocolate note I tasted in them. I got the Bunnahabhain 12 as a Christmas gift and cracked it open right away. A really good whisky; untypical for Islay but highly enjoyable.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read these reviews!

      Those single casks you mentioned sound amazing! I feel similarly regarding Bunnahabhain though and feel I should spend some more time with the distillery.

      I like doing side by side reviews where I can – really helps me to get to brass tacks as to what I prefer haha

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  2. Absolutely. I haven’t done any side by side reviews so far, but I sometimes drink rather similar whiskies back to back. Over Christmas, a friend and I had the Big Peat Xmas Edition 2015 and 2016, for example. It was really fun taking the time to make out their differences and find out in what areas they differ. 🙂

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