I drink so much Aberlour A’bunadh that I sometimes forget the distillery makes other whisky. This one, a new permanent member of the Aberlour lineup (although oddly not yet listed on the website), is an NAS sherried single malt bottled at 48%. The Gaelic name (which seems to be par-for-the-course with legitimizing NAS whiskies) means ‘rare cask’. The whisky is aged in some inscrutable combination of European and American oak casks, some of which held sherry at one time. The “two types” of American Oak could refer to refill and first-fill, or it could mean ex-bourbon American oak casks that have been “seasoned” by sloshing some re-used sherry around in them. The whisky is bottled without added coloring or chill filtration.
The price, launched at $65, suggests to jaded consumers such as myself that Abelour is looking to entice A’bunadh adherents to a cheaper-to-make product. A’bunadh seems to have increased to the $75-$80 range, and Aberlour may be hoping that fans will accept Casg Annamh at the old price point, minus some sherry influence and ABV. Non-jaded consumers may welcome a new member to the Aberlour lineup, and write off the price increases to the current market trend as a whole. I’ll leave it to you to decide how jaded you are.
My sample was from a Flaviar Tasting Box, and is labelled “Lot 18/10/20110”. I’m not sure if that’s Flaviar gibberish or what, but this is from Casg Annamh Batch 1.
Nose: Balsam and juniper berry strike the nose first, but the aroma is shy and seems to require a rest in the glass. After said rest there is mild sweet grape jam, cherry Jolly Ranchers, peanut butter, baked goods like ‘blondie’ brownies, soft butterscotch, and a hint of banana. All of which remains shy and hard to tease out, or muddy and confused.
Palate: Syrupy body. A moderate tongue burn is followed by sugar cookie dough, Red Vines, red candy apples, and herbaceous throat lozenges. Again, muddy and confused.
Finish: Medium-short. Some charcoal bitterness, flecked with root beer and powdered cinnamon. Little fruit. Fades without much fanfare, leaving a bit of menthol.
With Water: A few drops of water bring out a distinct fresh hay note in the aroma, but not much else. The palate is cleaner with some licorice, the finish rounder. Water doesn’t hurt, but it also doesn’t fix what’s wrong here.
Overall: I’m not used to Aberlour being shy, and to add insult to injury this is no sherry bomb. This seems to be an unsuccessful merging of sherried and ex-bourbon styles where the best elements of each is squashed by the presence of the other. The notes that I can detect are fleeting and inconsistent. I could imagine that midway through a full bottle of this, one would come to appreciate its core complexity… but a sample is insufficient to do it justice. I am left without much desire to find a full bottle, especially when A’bunadh and Aberlour 12 are still available.
I usually don’t read the notes of other reviewers, but I couldn’t help but notice the Internet at large seems to be on board with Casg Annamh. Perhaps they all sprung for a full bottle and it grew on them, or perhaps a “softer” and “easier” A’bunadh is something that people other than me want. Take my review with a grain of salt, and read some of those others before making a decision.