Monday, March 26, 2018

Whisky Review: Scott's Selection Bunnahabhain 16 Year 1988/2004

Scott's Selection is a now-defunct independent bottler that was owned by the former master distiller for the Speyside Distillery. They have the dubious honor of having bottled quite a number of well-regarded whiskies, but also of being frequently noted as shelf turds during the early-2010s as bottles released in the early-2000s remained firmly on shelves, often at their original prices.

This particular whisky was among them, as it was still available at Binny's until a few years ago when the discounts finally became deep enough for some of us to go in on a split. You can find Michael Kravitz's and MAO's reviews from the same bottle.

This whisky was distilled in 1988, filled into an unknown cask(s?) (maybe refill sherry and ex-bourbon?), then bottled in 2004 at 53.8% without coloring or chill filtration.

Scott's Selection Bunnahabhain 16 Year 1988/2004

Nose: fairly cask-driven, mild fruity (sherry?) overtones, fresh berries, a solid but not overwhelming layer of American oak, orange and lemon peel, malt and vanilla in the background. After adding a few drops of water the fruit/sherry notes become much stronger, dominating the aromas.

Taste: balanced berries/fruit and malt sweetness up front, a bump of American oak with apple and orange overtones in the middle, a slightly hollowness near the back, then more aggressive oak tannins going into the finish. After dilution the berries become stronger up front, with a mild sourness starting in the middle and reduced oak tannins at the back.

Finish: a sort of fizziness, solid American oak tannins, dry malt, sherry residue, honey

While this is a little bit raw, it's still pleasantly engaging. I think it was a wise choice to bottle this cask at a relatively young age, because the wood was starting to get the upper hand and it could have gone over the edge after a few more years. Another possibility is that, since this is technically not labeled as a single cask, a more restrained refill ex-sherry cask was combined with a more active first-fill ex-bourbon so that this came out somewhere in the middle. Overall it's a nice but uncomplicated whisky that I wish I had a whole bottle to myself. It drinks easy for something of this strength.

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