One of Scotland’s contemporary giant malts that I’ve mentioned on my blog here and haven’t done any real in depth reviewing of comes from the Speyside distillery of Aberlour. Aberlour, which I reviewed a double cask version of earlier on this blog is one of my favourite sherry style Single-malts which offers some really great drams, most of which come with a big hit of dried fruits, dark chocolate and a full body character. Much like Glenmorangie, I have never had an Aberlour that I felt was not great.
A’bunadh is a batch style Malt which releases regularly into the rotation of the Distilleries core expressions. It translates from Gaelic to ‘original’, which is their way of saying that this product isn’t tinkered with except for how they vat it. All of A’bunadh is non-chill filtered, no colour and at cask strength… I’m not sure about all of that… honestly there could be some colour in here but really we couldn’t tell. I don’t really detect it cramping on the finish, I’m also not giving the benefit of the doubt.
I first tasted A’bunadh at batch 37 and thought it was stunning. It was really my introduction to cask strength malts and what an intro it was. Syrupy, full bodied, powerful and filled with flavour. Since, batches 47, 48 and 51 have crossed my pallet at bars and never have I re-purchased it until now when I went down and bought a bottle of what I read up on to be one of the better batches recently, 52 which happened to be (I think) hidden away at my NSLC back behind all the current batches (methinks some employee was trying to hide it for themselves).
A’bunadh is historically a sherry monster which cracks over %60. This batch weighs in at %60.5. Dark coloured, robust malt, which is not for the weak hearted. Although this doesn’t have any real relatable smoke to it (a tad) it does create some medicinal textures on the nose, which if you’re not into that might be a deterrent. I say try it, because even though some malt-heads over the last few years claim the quality has gone down, A’bunadh is still well worth the effort, perhaps not as much as it used to be but if you’re into heavily sherried style Whisky… this is a classic.
This one really does require a good amount of water, and despite what they say about Sherried Malts, you certainly can cut this a fair amount. Without water, it’s very biting and burning, even the nose jumps up at you.
Neat on the nose, there is the burn from the high volume of alcohol and it’s not shy. What is also not shy are big dry fruit notes aka raisins, plum and banana. Raw sugar, nutmeg, and clove. An Almond nut note, some chocolate like rum chocolates at Christmas time. The rest, burn. Burn from the abv and some barrel char. After adding water it eases up, more rum like notes, fruit notes pick up, more oak and a little more sweetness. Dried cherry, apricots, a toasted bread note.
Tasting this one neat is an adventure for the brave but you can fight through it fairly well. I’m anticipating this batch won’t require as much water as previous ones to bring it to a reasonable drinking level. The burn is full on and warms the pallet; it’s thick and powerful, cough medicine, dates and tannins. After adding some water the burn subsides, more chocolate notes, lighter red fruits similar to the nose but much more oak influence coming out as it works it’s way.
The finish neat is fairly short, bitter oak with no sweetness on it. Dark chocolate. After water, the finish seems relatively unchanged except for a little bit of a sweet red wine like note as it closes out, and closes out rather dry.
Overall, really great stuff that I would recommend anyone interested in Single Malt Scotch give a whack at. Probably best for the Autumn/Winter a great Christmas gift.