A life in drinks: From wine to whisky

Bunnahabhain 40 year old Limited Release 2012

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 40
41.5% Abv
750 bottles

This is a one-off release of 750 individually numbered bottles, hand signed and presented in very nice, but not over the top packaging. According to the distillery the whisky was discovered by Master Distiller Ian MacMillan, the casks were found listed in the distillery ledgers. “It was an exhilarating moment to stumble on such a special find,” he said. “There are very few 40yo Islays and unlike any other, Bunnahabhain’s taste is considered unique because the distillery does not heavily peat the fine malted barley. There are just 46 bottle for the UK market.

My first encounter with this whisky was at the whisky show. I tried it having tasted a good few whiskies before, and although I could tell it was a belter, I longed to sit with it and an unsullied palate and some time. Last week that opportunity arrived in the form of a lovely sample. I squirreled it away with anticipation of a quite while to my self during the weekend.

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White


At first sweet citrus notes of Oranges and fresher lime, there are some floral notes, but there is so much going on that they are not the predominant aroma, although there is a definite note of Parma violets. There is underlying vanilla and caramel and even a hint of honey when left for a while. It is worth leaving this whisky in the glass to develop for 15 minutes at least.


Molasses at first and caramel, then lighter tropical flavours, even a little papaya and banana distinguishable amongst the other fruits, fresh for it’s age. Then comes the honey, caramel and light touches of vanilla. Letting it coat the tongue well brings forth amaretto and a tiny bit of burnt butter.    


The finish is long, starting with the finishing flavours of the palate, and then the more unctuous flavours of caramel and vanilla come back and linger. Right on the end the oranges can just be sensed.

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old 2012 ©Colin Hampden-White

Old whiskies such as this are keenly anticipated and when they deliver it is usually with a sense of relief, but with this whisky it is with a much greater sense of pure pleasure. It’s a hefty price tag, but if treats come at this level for you, then you will be well rewarded, a fabulous whisky and one of my favourites of the year.

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