[Review] Bunnahabhain - 12 years old 46.3% (2016 vs 2018)

Since very early on in my whisky journey, I have been a big fan of Bunnahabhain, and as the 12 years old is the most affordable, I made sure never to run out of it. Last year, the company decided to revamp their packaging and dropped the Roman numerals and square black and gold boxes for grey tubes with different accents depending on the bottles. In terms of presentation, the whisky is still bottled at 46.3%, un-chillfiltered and in its natural colour. So surely, just a cosmetic change and no alteration to the juice in the bottle...
I bought a new bottle for my dad as he was running low on his previous one and out of curiosity, we decided to compare both.

Before telling you a little bit more about what I thought, I want to set things straight. The older bottling has been opened for over a year whereas the newer one has only been opened a couple of weeks. I have also found a little bit of batch variation in past with Bunnahabhain 12, from one bottle to an other.
I will refer to the older bottle as O and to the newer one as N.

O - amber
N - gold

O is darker than N and as the whisky is bottled with its natural colour I guess this will have an impact on smell and taste. Paler colour could mean less sherry cask influence or more refill casks used or less amount of older whisky used...

O - Sweet, rich, sherry oak, fruit, Christmas cake, raisin, ripe banana, brown sugar and some spicy notes too.
N - Fresh, almond, citrus notes, vanilla, some barley sweetness and minerality with some hints of faint smoke in the background, A bit more spirit driven, the sherry oak note are not as present there.

Again on the nose I find an obvious difference between both O and N. O gives me older sherry quality when N gives me fresher citrus notes.

O - Rich and syrupy, dried fruit, spicy Christmas cake, brown sugar, sherry oak.
N - Spicy and citrusy, a little bitterness, some barley sweetness too, not quite as syrupy as O, the sherry is less prominent here.

The difference is still here between O and N. In my opinion, O gets more cask influence when N gets more spirit influence...

O - Warm, round, sweet finish with oak and raisin notes
N - The sherry oak notes finally appear with some sweetness, still a little smoke and bitterness.

Despite getting a little closer to each other, both finishes are different again. I pick up some faint smoke in the N that I don't in the O.

It therefore seems to me that the packaging is not the only thing that evolved there, the whisky has too. I took a sample of N from my dad's bottle and brought it home to compare with my bottle of O and found the same differences. I don't know what has happened here Bunnahabhain, but I struggle to pick up the traditional Christmas cake notes, which I have always found so enjoyable and typical in your bottles, with this new presentation. In my opinion, the older bottling seemed more mature (both the packaging and the whisky) than the newer one, and that leaves me a little disappointed...


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