Bunnahabhain 20 Years Old 1997 Palo Cortado Finish

Bunnahabhain 1997 Palo Cortado Finish (54.9%, OB, Limited Release 2018, 1620 Bottles)

  • Category: Islay single malt scotch whisky
  • Origin: Bunnahabhain distillery
  • Bottling: Distell, OB
  • ABV: 54.9%
  • Cost: £275

Bunnahabhain 1997 Palo Cortado Cask Finish_Limited Release

What they say

Bunnahabhain Palo Cortado Cask Finish spent almost two years in rare Palo Cortado sherry casks to complete the malt. Deep amber gold in colour, the whisky offers flavours of sweet dried fruit, rich oak and subtle hints of cocoa on the palate, with a slightly dry finish with hints of nutmeg.

Official tasting notes

  • Palate: Mouth coating, sweet dried fruit, rich oak, roasted nuts, subtle hints of cocoa

What I say

Thanks to Distell for providing samples of their 2018 Limited Edition releases

This Bunnahabhain expression, distilled on 22/11/1997 from the more usual unpeated malt (unlike the Mòine expression), has been matured for around 19 years before finishing for nearly 2 years in an ex-Palo Cortado sherry cask. Bottled 27/04/2018 and released as the oldest of Distell’s 2018 Limited Releases.

Palo Cortado is one of the rarest types of sherry, a Fino sherry where a layer of Flor covers the surface preventing oxidation, however Palo Cortado loses this layer and then matures oxidatively much more like Oloroso sherry. In the past this may have happened accidentally, however more usually the Flor is killed by fortifying it to 17-18%. Palo Cortado is said to posses Amontillado like aromas but more Oloroso-like flavour.

My tasting notes

  • Appearance: Liquid gold (10/20), rounded medium tears leave medium legs or beading.
  • Nose: Sweet, warming and doughy, like proving cinnamon bread or brioche, chewy malt, some sweet perfumed notes, quite sticky and syrupy, some dry and dusty grist and a hint of wood smoke and dunnage warehouse.
  • Taste: Full-bodied, thick and unctuous on the palate yet silky smooth, polished toffee, buttery macadamia nuts, hazelnut puree, light vanilla or hazelnut latte and mocha coffee, golden raisins, dried figs and dates, a little jammy and sweet, and undercurrent of sharpness and bitterness stops this becoming too cloying on the palate, mostly oak wood derived/tannic.
  • Finish: Long, a touch vaporous, softened and sugary roasted nut, toffee and dried fruits, slightly drying oak wood.


A delightful expression, plenty of sweet vanilla suggest plenty of ex-Bourbon maturation before the final Palo Cortado finish. I loved this plenty of buttery nut and coffee notes but without too much of the chocolate that can come from PX or occasionally Oloroso casks. An expression well-deserving of being the pinnacle of Distell’s 2018 limited releases.

Score 93/100

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Categories: Bunnahabhain, Islay

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