Having reviewed the Glenfarclas 105 and the Macallan CS, I may as well complete the trifecta of iconic young, cask strength sherried malts from the Speyside. And so here is Batch 45 of the Aberlour A’bunadh (I’m not sure what number the series is up to now). As I noted in the review of the 105, the A’bunadh is very well-loved by whisky geeks—indeed, it’s probably not a stretch to say that it might be one of the most loved of contemporary malts among whisky geeks. Its name comes up seemingly on a daily basis on the Malt Maniacs Facebook page (this is an exaggeration—please do not bother counting) and you can always count on it being mentioned when someone asks for a whisky recommendation on a public forum. Its easy availability and its affordability (in relative terms, not in relation to its age, which is unknown) both probably have something to do with it, but, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, I think the real key is the batch numbering (which make every release limited and “special” and also triggers obsessive compulsive disorder, which whisky geeks are very susceptible to). It’s also, of course, usually quite good.
A comparison of four batches of the A’bunadh was among the very first reviews I posted on this blog and I am fairly certain that it is the only one of my posts that has been viewed once every single day since. I liked most of those batches and hope this one will be good as well. This was another bottle that I recently split with friends in town.
Aberlour A’bunadh, Batch 45 (60.2%; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Dried orange peel, marmalade, raisins and leathery caramel. Very intense and very good. A bit of graphite/pencil lead below the richer notes. With more time there’s some oak. Gets stickier as it sits with fruitcake notes; more oak too now. With even more time there’s some red fruit (strawberry?) and a hint of sandalwood. Water pushes back the richer fruity notes and, well, makes it all a bit indistinct (maybe I added too much): some dusty wood, some cream and some more of the berry sweetness are now at the fore.
Palate: Pretty much as on the nose at first except with more of the wood (though nothing excessive) and more salt. A bit of gunpowder emerges after a couple of minutes but it’s savoury/meaty and not objectionably sulphured. As on the nose, gets more vinous as it sits and the wood gets stronger. And it stays quite hot—let’s see what water does. Water makes it brighter but also makes the wood much sharper. Settles down after a good 10-15 minutes and more of the richer notes return.
Finish: Long. The wood and the salt dominate at first and then there’s the tell-tale taste of blood in the mouth as the sherry separates a little. That sharp wood with water turns quite astringent with time.
Comments: I liked the nose a lot neat but the palate and finish didn’t really do it for me. And water brought out way too much wood—though it did get better with time. Better than the Glenfarclas 105 but not by so very much. I’ll experiment with water for the rest of this split and report if there are any significant changes.
Rating: 84 points.