Aberlour A’Bunadh (Batch 30)

[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)

Color: Mahogany

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?

Aberlour A’Bunadh (Batch 30)
59.8% (varies) ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $55-$70
Acquired: (Bottle): Total Wine in Gilbert, AZ. $47 http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=991222

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  • really like your reviews of the a’bunadh. quite often, most reviews will review one batch and then go silent. i understand – there are alot of whiskey out there to review. you reviewing the different batches and noting the differences is greatly appreciated. i really like aberlour. i was able to get two bottles of the 15yo while dusty hunting. i see that you are getting your bottles of a’bunadh for $47. that’s incredible. i live in texas so can’t order online. the stores near me sell it for around $70 with tax.

  • Thanks JWC. I was actually shocked to see the $47 price tag on the batch 30 – I actually paid closer to $65 for my batch 29. I’ve since seen similar prices at two places in Northern California – which appears to have pretty good prices across the board.

  • ill stay away from that batch 30. last thing i want is big oak and tannins and my last bourbon tasted like left over warehouse with little fresh flavours. im after something treacle toffee malt, creamy, plumy,jam like, christmas cake. Im willing pay 100au for a good whisky. was going to by a toffed blend whisky but something with good sheery i’ll pay $60 more. so basically this whisky has a lot of notes. I found bookers bourbon easy to drink as no sharp edges.

  • I’m on my fourth bottle of A ‘bunadh and can’t stop drinking it. To me, this is “big boy” scotch. It’s full and meaty and very smooth. It’s worth every penny of the purchase price no matter what it is!

  • The A’bunadah was my holiday spirit this year and I must say I have mixed emotions about the scotch. The nose is excellent. No complaints there. It is quite complex and I’ve found that time rather than water really changes the characteristic. Take a sip at once and you will experience the stingy astringent aspect with all the flavor notes secondary. Wait 30 minutes and you will seriously wonder if it was the same whiskey you poured earlier. The bite becomes less severe and the flavors really explode on the palate. In the process, however, the sherry characteristic almost overcomes the scotch. The “peaty, malty” is taken over by “overly aged wine”. It’s not terrible by any means. But when I drink scotch I expect certain flavors to predominate. Perhaps a bad analogy, but with premium tequila I like to taste the blue Weber agave. It’s why you spend the extra. The older, darker tequila’s lose that and start tasting like whiskey. If I wanted whiskey, I would have had a whiskey. And so, it is with mixed feelings when this scotch opens up and I begin to taste things that don’t remind me of scotch. I admit to being a neophyte and perhaps for some “that’s the whole point when it changes it’s character”. Although this scotch is quite excellent and I’d certainly advise everyone to try a bottle at least once to experience it’s true complexity. I must say, unless I develop a craving for it, in the future if I’m looking for a true peaty, malty, limestone flavor, I’d probably look elsewhere. How dare I say a negative word about the holy grail. Don’t flame the noob. This is just my humble opinion.

  • Noob, thank you for your blog. It has been very helpful in my journey discovering scotch. I’d like to share a story. First off, I think A’bunadah is absolutely one of the best. With that in mind, I chose Aberlour as my distillery of choice to visit on a recent trip to Scotland. It’s my personal favorite Speyside (I love sherry aging/finishing), which is the region we stayed in. Heck, I even love the 10 year old. My intention while there was to purchase a bottle of A’bunadah, you know, just to say I bought it in Scotland, at the source. However, that plan was soon dashed. While in the tasting room, we were given six (!!) tastings. One of the “new spirit,” which was clear and about 70-75% (!!). There was a tasting of the 12, 16, and A’bunadah. All were great. But there were two others. One aged in bourbon casks and one aged in sherry. Both cask strength. The bourbon one was good, but the sherry one blew me away. It reminded me of A’bunadah. Then the host said we could purchase a bottle and that the only place in the world to get it was in that room. I was sold! I filled the bottle myself, corked it, and filled out and attached the label. What a fantastic souvenir! I’ve yet to open it, saving it for special occasions, so I can’t go too far into tasting notes. If you are still with me, thanks for reading. Keep up the great work!

    • Kevin, sounds like a great souvenir! I know that there are a number of scotch distilleries that keep aside a few single casks for distillery visitors only, which is a great way to keep attracting people to visit. 😉 I agree that a’bunadh is one of the best whiskies on the planet. Cheers!