Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Whisky Review: The First Editions Bunnahabhain 22 Year 1989/2012

One of the enduring mysteries when it comes to IB Bunnahabhains is why there are so many casks from 1989 and why all of them seem to have such a low proof. Reddit user Rudd1983 ran an analysis of data from WhiskyBase and found that 1989 is a serious statistical anomaly with almost 5% lower average bottling strength than surrounding years, despite similar average ages. They also pinged the distillery and determined that the filling strength that year was still the common 63.5%, eliminating one possible explanation.

This whisky was distilled in 1989, filled into what I assume was a refill hogshead, then bottled in 2012 at 45.9% without coloring or chill filtration.

The First Editions Bunnahabhain 22 Year 1989/2012 Cask ES010/10

Nose: classic bourbon cask Bunnahabhain - balanced clean malt, caramel oak, fresh vanilla, coastal influence, vague fruitiness, gently floral, lightly herbal. After adding a few drops of water it becomes softer and sweeter, but it loses some intensity.

Taste: fairly sweet up front with a good mix of malt and cask, slightly sour and gently oak-y with a bit of vague fruit from the middle back, creamy vanilla in the background throughout. After dilution it retains roughly the same structure, but the oak is a little softer and there is a pop of fruit around the middle.

Finish: a little cask and malt, gently bitter, then a long savory herbal/coastal fade out with a touch of cacao. After dilution the oak shifts up and the herbal notes fade.

While there's nothing about this cask that jumps out and makes it exciting, it's also a solid example of what time and wood can do for good spirit.  When I first opened the bottle it had some of the cardboard character that I've often found with First Editions releases, but over time it has settled down into something more clearly Bunnahabhain. While it's never going to reach the heights of their sherry cask releases, it's totally respectable and didn't cost me an arm and a leg.

With that said, the palate is something of a let-down after the moderate complexity of the nose and finish, but that can be improved with a little water or easily tweaked with a bit of blending  - sherried Craigellachie or Mortlach would work great or alternatively a bit of Linkwood could boost the floral notes. There are definite similarities to the MoM Bunnahabhain of the same vintage I tried a number of years ago, though that one had a bit more going on. Unfortunately I didn't grab a bottle of that one since I wasn't as much of a fan of this style at the time.

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