Bunnahabhain was constructed in 1880/1881 by the
Greenlees brothers and first opened its doors in 1983.
The number of stills was increased from two to four in
1963, at a time that many other distilleries did the same.

Trivia about Bunnahabhain: I'm no prognosticator, but I fear for Bunnahabhain's future.
The new slogan they came up with at Burn Stewart is 'Bunnahabhain - The Spiritual Home of Black Bottle'. Well, if that's the only 'core value' they want to express (the fact that Bunnahabhain is used in a blend - albeit a very tasty one) they may not be in the best position to take full advantage of the current single malt boom. If my experiences with malts from the other distilleries owned by Burn Stewart (Deanston and Tobermory) are anything to go by, it would seem their focus lies on quantity rather than quality. It is actually possible to find magnificent bottlings from these distilleries, but they are usually selected casks from independent bottlers.
Will this be the future of Bunnahabhain as well? Only time will tell...

The Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay is located on
the north of Islay with Caol Ila as its only neighbour.
Situated along the Sound of Islay, it's protected from
the fierce winds blowing in from the Atlantic ocean.
Maybe this is reflected in the upeated style of the
'Bunny' - it's the only unpeated Islay malt whisky.

Where to find Bunnahabhain

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Bunnahabhain location
Bunnahabhain single malt whisky

Bunnahabhain  (Pronounced: boona-HAven)
Islay (East Shore)
Caol Ila, Bowmore, Bruichladdich
1883
Margadale River
2 Wash, 2 Spirit
2,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
CL Financial > Burn Stewart Dist. (since 2003)
Port Askaig, Islay, Argyll, PA46 7RR
No

Bunnahabhain Distillery Profile

Bunnahabhain single malt whiskyTrack Record - overview of all single malts and scores
Bunnahabhain distillery

In the words of Ian Good, chairman and chief executive of Edrington: "The disposals are in line with the group's strategy of concentrating our investment resource behind developing our core brands." The Glasgow-based Edrington group said that its strategic aim is to concentrate investment behind developing its flagship brands; the Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blends and Macallan and Highland Park single malts.

Bunnahabhain Scotch whisky

Bunnahabhain 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1993, 50cl)
Nose: Smooth and a little bit sherried. Quite gentle for an islay malt.
It's not peaty and smoky like Lagavulin - more like Bowmore, but even softer.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. Can I taste some peat here? No, I don't think so
But it's not as powerful as Lagavulin or Laphroaig. More like Longmorn or Glen Ord.
Score: 81 points - I only learned later that Bunnahabhain is unpeated.

Bunnahabhain 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, 70cl)
Nose: Soft. Obvious sherry in the start - almost fruity. Alcoholic; a bit like rum.
Pinch of salt. Hint of oil after a while. Peat & sweet toffee notes. Not terribly expressive.
Taste: Very sherried. Salty, but not much power. Sour notes. Quite a mouth full...
Malty and a little sweet in the centre. Dry finish with some smoke. No peat.
Score: 80 points - almost a decade after my first dram I still love it.

Bunnahabhain 12yo 1989/2001 Sherry Finish (43%, Chieftain's, C#9039, Sherry Finish, 70cl) - 
Nose: Wow! A sherried punch. Fruity and sweet. Marzipan. Banana? Dried apples.
Whiffs of smoke and soap. Oriental spices. Very faint peat.
Taste: No sweetness. Oh, wait - there it is... Gingerbread. Marzipan again.
Needs a few minutes to find the right balance. Slightly dry in the finish.
Score: 81 points -

Bunnahab(h)ain 20yo 1979/1999 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #3184)
Nose: Quite sweet. Toffee. Organics. Some sherry. Tobacco? Some fruits too.
Taste: Sweet, smooth start. Malty, bitter centre. Feels softer than the high proof suggests.
After a few minutes the palate turns nasty and bitter. Can't hold a candle to the 12yo OB.
Score: 68 points - hardly worthy of a single cask treatment, methinks.

Bunnahabhain 20yo 1980 (54.8%, Prestonfield, Cask #9063)
Nose: Wood. Smoke. Extremely sour like raw rhubarb. Vinegar? Organics.
Old sherry and dust in the background. Unique, but no real Islay power.
Taste: Soft start, growing fruity towards the centre. Tannin dryness.
It has a great candy fruitiness that slowly fizzles out into a dry, beer-like finish.
Score: 83 points -

Bunnahabhain 24yo 1979/2003 (45.7% Cadenhead's Authentic, Bottled July 2003, Bourbon)
Nose: Salmiak, liquorice and aniseed. What a pleasant surprise! Lemon and a hint of oil as well.
Nothing too extreme in the profile, but it's very nicely composed with some unique traits.
Taste: The palate was fruity and a little bit dusty. It felt weaker than its 45.7%.
Score: 87 points - very pleasant indeed; highly recommendable.

Bunnahabhain 25yo 1964/1990 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Distilled 30/11/1964, Bottled 2/90)
Nose: Not unlike the sour mash and washbacks we sniffed during some distillery visits.
Yoghurt and passion fruit. Wonderful organics. Delicious. This is a malt to get lost in.
Taste: Bloody great - a world apart from Signatory's 20yo 1980 bottling
Score: 87 points - I felt it was highly recommendable.

Bunnahabhain 34yo 1968/2002 'Auld Acquaintance' (43.8%, OB, 70cl)
Nose: Fruit and sherry. Organics. Spices. Sweaty socks - but in a nice way...
Carnival candy. Black berries. Smoke. Eucalyptus? Amazing complexity.
Taste: Woody start. Fruity centre. Dry finish, still woody.
Nice, but nothing very spectacular. Quite bitter. It seems a tad watery.
Score: 90 points - this malt has matured more gracefully than I have...
 

Check out my Track Record for a complete and up-to-date overview of all 'siplings' I've tried.
 
 

Bunnahabhain logo

In 2005 Bunnahabhain distillery employed some 11 people.
That may not seem like a lot, but on a small island like Islay
(population +/- 3,000) every single job counts. I don't have
the details of the workforce of the other Islay distilleries, but
if they are comparable to the numbers at Bunnahabhain that
would mean the whole Islay show is ran by +/- 100 people...

In 1999 Highland Distillers, then the owners of Bunnahabhain, were acquired by the Edrington Group (themselves the result of a merger in 1996). They only held on to Bunnahabhain for a few years; in 2003 Bunnahabhain (the distillery and the brand) were sold to Burn Stewart Distillers, together with the 'Black Bottle' brand.

Even though the Bunnahabhain distillery was sold to Burn Stewart, the Edrington group is still its biggest customer. Bunnahabhain may not have the biggest 'profile' of the distilleries on Islay, but it has the biggest production potential of all distilleries on the island. They don't run at full capacity, though, making Caol Ila a little to the south the distillery with the biggest actual output on Islay.

The fact that Bunnahabhain is (potentially) the biggest distillery on the island may come as a surprise to some, but when some of the malt maniacs visited Bunnahabhain in June 2005 we could verify for ourselves that the stills were absolutely massive.

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