Aberlour

Review: Aberlour A'Bunadh Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Aberlour (Aberlour, Scotland)

The story with this whisky goes that a few stillmen found an old bottle of whisky from the turn of the 19th century and wanted to replicate it – and so, Aberlour puts forth a monster of a whisky – a cask strength, heavily sherried single malt. Each bottle has a batch label on it, and batches vary in quality but this is a longstanding classic and favorite of many connoisseurs. It isdeep red and brown in colour, with no coloring added or any chill-filtration. “A’Bunadh” means “of the origin” in gaelic, speaking to the old style of this whisky.

The exclusive sherry maturation is reasonably uncommon, and each batch is composed of barrels roughly 5 to 25 years old. Quite terrific. A'Bunadh was one of the old classic sherry monsters, first released in 1997 - but this style is now becoming more prominent with other whiskies such as GlenDronach Cask Strength, Tamdhu Batch Strength, and many others.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 44 (59.7% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: LKPF3820 290 10 27

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose:  What a brilliant combination of sherry and malt. The cask strength on this lets you feel that at full force - sherry, rancio nuttiness, threads of rich barley, cinnamon, raisins, prune, tobacco, vanilla, and apples, oak, and fabulous earth. Brilliant- integrated,  complex, and deep.

Taste: Hot at cask strength, with white raisins, malt, vanilla, cinnamon, and oak all taking their turn in a slowly unfolding taste along with a consistent chocolate presence. There is lots going on, and the strength and complexity work so well. What is more, there's a brilliant explosion of honey and malt mid-palate which works wonders.

Finish: Buttery, after all the brute force of the whisky before - with a good bit of raisin, malt, malt loaf, berries, cinnamon, clove, mulled red wine- enduring too. Sort of like a good mulled honey, if there were such a thing.

I'm grateful that the malt and spirit doesn't get lost in this - with many whiskies aged in "flavoured" casks, it's always a concern of mine that the whisky itself get s lost to the cask - but this is whisky, not high ABV sherry as some heavily sherried whiskies can be. It's very integrated, without flaws...complex, and strong...wonderful stuff. Batches vary, and this is a good one - though there are better. Well worth a dram, and very good at cask strength, too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $100.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 49 (60.1% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Chocolate, sherry, cacao, nutmeg, rosehip tea, and some nice grape which lifts everything up a bit. Underneath, there is a bit of that funky cheesy sherry, but it’s light enough that it’s intriguing and not detracting (I don’t always love those sherry notes – they’re not sulphur, to be clear). On the palate, the oak shines through really nicely as the finish leads in to a spicy, cinnamon and clove laden finish. The grape and sherry control the finish, as well, and are present in good quantity – the lightest quantity of bitterness is also present, although this may have been augmented by the fact that the bottle has been open for some time before this review. The oak is carried beautifully through in this release, and the balance is quite good too, though this sample is a bit short of batch 44 in a head-to-head especially on the finish.

As a side note, based on reviews I’ve seen, this seems to be relatively below what others have given this. This may have been due to the sample I received or air in the bottle over some time, as this was a sample received from a friend - but this rating is no slouch anyway.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $100. It isn’t as good as the above, so it isn’t quite as high value…


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 58 (61.1%)

  • Bottling Code: LKPK4625 2016/11/15 15:59

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Vanilla, oak come off at first, with a dense, peppery spiciness. Red pepper jelly, dried cranberries, currants, pencil shavings, and some light sherry nuttiness. And some oak char. Underneath, there’s some bright granny smith apple too. The palate is sharp, with a terrific dried fruit and vanilla middle and some enduring spiciness and tannin on the finish. Great earthiness, and more herbal than I remember in previous A’Bunadh’s. Raisins are wonderful here too – just layers and layers of flavors at full strength (though it does very well with water!). There’s a light touch of oily youth, yet there is something nicely appealing about it. Light rancio on the finish, and such mighty oak and spice (quite the enduring cinnamon and allspice). An ever so slight sulphury pepper at the end, which I quite enjoy. What a finish. This is a big batch!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $100.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 59 (60.9%)

  • Bottling Code: LKPL0522 2017/02/24

  • Bottling Date: 2017

I liked batch 58 so much that I went for another bottle only to find 59s on the shelves. Well, here we go:

Lots of sherry on this one, but also lots of biscuit notes. Dried fruits and pencil shavings develop with time, amidst lots of vanilla. The palate is big, and very cask driven – sherry and oak in every corner –the malt body itself comes through in the middle of the palate quite brilliantly, alongside mandarins and raw cacao. Opens up more and more with time, as with most A’Bunadhs. The finish is full of sherry, dried fruit, spice. Terrific, as usual, but not the 58 I was looking for...

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $100.


Review: Aberlour 16 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Sherry & First fill bourbon barrels; 16 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Aberlour (Aberlour, Scotland)

This is just a terrific bottling - I am always glad when I can find it and often pick it up for tastings when I see it. In ontario, it is generally significantly cheaper than the 18 year old, for whatever reason.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LKPH 4294 2014/10/30 13:05

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Apple, malt, and sherry notes all balanced very nicely with the oak. A few of those cheesy sherry notes. A different beast, obviously than A'Bunadh (perhaps the first thing folks think when they hear Aberlour) - not as sherried, but more balanced and the oak is nicely integrated within. On the palate, big but restrained, with white raisin, dark chocolate, a very light integration of oak and tannin, honey, apple, and some clove. The sherry comes out nicely on the finish alongside wildflower honey and cinnamon and even a touch of dried (unsweetened) mango. Very moreish. This one has not disappointed me!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). At the top of this category, too.

Value: Average at $90. Not bad in terms of Scotch, though, especially old stuff…


Review: Aberlour 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Sherry & Refill Casks; 12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Aberlour (Aberlour, Scotland)

This really is a classic - an easy, accessible (in terms of distribution and cost), and well made sherried single malt. I like it more than the 10, and I often recommend it. Nice bottle, too.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LKPK 0871 2016/03/01 14:30

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Not as overtly sherried as the 10 Year Old, but immediately more complex and a bit funkier - though a step below the 16 in complexity and balance. Oak, parmesan, and some very nice dried fruit - cherries, apricots, and raisins. The palate has honey, smoky oak, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a finish that slowly unpacks into oak and spice. For a whisky that isn’t finished or matured in new oak, I am surprised at the amount of oak in the whisky, but it works quite well here. I always find that aberlour does some terrific work with sherry casks – the quality of the sherry is always brilliant in my experience with the distillery.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $65.


Review: Aberlour 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Sherry & Refill Casks; 10 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Aberlour (Aberlour, Scotland)

Another Speyside whisky labeled as a highland, harking back to the old definition of Highland when the Lowlands were distilling terrible whisky and the good stuff was coming illicitly from the Highlands. The name of the distillery itself means mouth of the babbling brook. This 10 year old is the base expression, matured in a combination of refill and sherry casks - Aberlour is perhaps best known for its terrific sherry matured spirit. The lower end of the Aberlour range is generally very good and very inexpensive, relatively - I often recommend their 10 and 12 year old to people looking for a good reasonably priced Scotch Single Malt.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: LKRJ 3033 2015/07/30 21:23

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Lots of honey, vanilla, and sherry, emanating from the nose. Lightly meaty, but not in a bad sense – i.e. the sherry is quite heavy and dark – and also in a bad way with some light spicy bitterness which isn’t the most pleasant. It gets a bit better as it opens up. Cinnamon, baking spice cake and oak. The palate is fairly full bodied – lots of sherry and cinnamon, and a very nice undertone of honey, prunes, parmesan, with some oak right on the very end finishing up in oak and honey.

For a nicely sherried, relatively inexpensive whisky, this would be the pick.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $60. About the same value as the 12 for the price increment, in my rating scheme.