A’bunadh means “Of the Origin” in Gaelic. It is bottled at cask strength from a vatting (mixture) of Aberlour malts from varying ages (10 to 15 years old). These are all aged in barrels that once held oloroso sherry. Each bottling run (indicated by a batch number on the bottle) will have slightly different alcohol by volume, ranging from 59.3% to 60.9%. Each batch will also vary in flavor, according to the whims of the whiskymaker and the individual characteristics of the source casks. An unsubstantiated rumor holds that a hidden bottle of Aberlour whisky from 1898 was discovered during construction in the still room, that the workmen drank a majority of it, and that a’bunadh is an attempt by the distillery to re-create the flavor and texture of that historic malt.
(My bottle is from Batch Number 29, bottled in 2010, 59.9% ABV)
The aroma is sweet and syrupy, like brown sugar cookies baking. Nose-burning alcohol and a twinge of cherry or cherry-wood. Strongly perfumed, rose pollen. Acetone.
The attack is fiery, unyielding. The body is syrupy and rich, coating your mouth like napalm. As it resolves on your palate, though, it opens up with fruit and oak, rich plum, red apple, caramel, treacle, toffee, and red pepper. Intense and intensely flavorful.
The finish is long and caramelly, hints of candy apple and molasses. It heats your throat and warms your belly. It also tenaciously clings to the inside of your cheeks and continues to smolder. This is a whisky to conquer.
Adding a dash of water does not reveal anything new in the aroma, to me, nor does it tame any of the fire. If you’re going to tackle this one, tackle it neat.