Bunnahabhain Canasta 1980, 36 Year Old (49.5%)

I’m back from a fabulous whisky weekend in Finland and two busy weeks here, so I have a chance to look at 1980. What a year!

Margaret Thatcher was in her first year in office, Ronald Reagan was going to get elected in the US, Lech Walesa became a household hero, smallpox was eradicated, half the countries in the world boycott the Moscow Olympics and the United States hockey team pulled off ‘The Miracle on Ice’ in the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.

Photo Credit: AP Photo

Meanwhile on Islay, Bunnahabhain distillery was going about its business, making the great whisky they make, and filled a few Oloroso sherry casks and put them in the warehouse to slumber. And slumber they did, for three and half decades. The whisky was then moved into casks that held William & Humbert’s very sweet and not so well known Canasta sherry, which is a blend of Palomino and Pedro Ximenez grapes (or what is classified today as a Cream Sherry, AKA Sweet Oloroso). As with all things sherry, of which I am far from being an expert, I consult my fellow whisky blogger, and uber sherry geek Ruben Luyten’s Sherry Notes (the link takes you to his review of the this Canasta).

Photo Credit: brandyalfonso.com

Sticking to “my spiel”, I’ll taste the whisky in honor of the Bunnahabhain open day on Islay.


Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Bunnahabhain 1980, Canasta Cask Finish, 36 Year Old, 1220 Bottles (49.5%)

Appearance: Dark mahogany, legs lazily peeling off the necklace.

Nose: Rich and briny, full of moist dark raisins with a rich sweetness.  Clove and macerated dark berries, prune jam (powidel) and some cinnamon tickle the nose. The nose keeps harking back to the dock at Bunnahabhain, with that light scent of the sea.

Palate: Thick, almost syrupy. Prunes, raisins, a dry tannic oakiness, almost furniture polish like,  and distinct, wood spices – cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. There’s a bitterness with a some fruity sweet sourness of damson plums, with allspice. There’s also a hint of snuff tobacco.

Linger: Light spice with a hint of mead like sweetness (sort of the fermented honey). White pepper and oak, with a hint of balsamic vinegar. The gullet has the spice, and the sides of the cheeks hold the tartness for quite a while, with a coating all over the mouth that’s almost waxy.


If you like the older heavily oaked whiskies, you’ll enjoy this one very much. I absolutely loved the damsons through the palate and the finish, and would enjoy having a bottle of this. Old Bunnahabhain is really a jem.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *