March 3, 2011
[See my review of the previous Batch 29 here]
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 30 at 59.8% ABV)
Nose: Heady aroma. Blackberry syrup. Definite sherry character, with overtones of antique wood, sap, stewed dark fruits, maple sugar candies, and a hint of candied orange peel or orange liqueur.
Body: Full and mouth-coating, but not oily. That cask-strength mouth-puckering burn is in full force.
Palate: Packed with those dark, jammy, stewed fruits. Blackberry jelly on buttered scones. Black cherry-flavored salt-water taffy.
Finish: The oak comes on strong, tannins and dark red grape skins. The finish is long, evolving into lighter sherry and rose wine notes, some strawberry, and finally some clove and allspice.
Adding a little water doesn’t open up anything floral – the sherry likely overwhelms anything so subtle. It does seem to wreck the fullness of the body, and I don’t get anything new from the flavor. Note: If you dilute it down to approximately 40% ABV it gets downright dull: No fruits, no spices, a little sherry and some malt alcohol. Don’t do it.
While the batch characteristics are slightly different from the previous batch 29, with more jammy fruit notes, a bigger oak influence, and a lighter sherry intensity, the quality remains at the same high level, and I continue to recommend this product highly. It also seems (or is it just me?) to be a little cheaper on the shelf than the 29?