Aberlour A’Bunadh single malt scotch is a lovely, rich, and complex sherry-cask-aged Speyside area single malt with a spice-driven nose.
Classification single malt scotch whisky
Company Pernod Ricard
Cask 100% ex-oloroso sherry casks
Still Type copper pot stills
Released 1997 (Ongoing)
Proof cask strength (varies), about 112.4 proof
Aged undisclosed, NAS
Awards Double Gold, International Spirits Challenge Awards 2020; Gold, San Francisco World Spirits Competition Awards 2021
A rich, chewy, satisfying Speyside whiskey from a renowned distiller
Extremely long finish
Each bottle represents a specific single batch of a cask-strength release
Those who prefer a lighter, American oak-driven Speyside whisky may find this overwhelming.
The high proof may be too much for some drinkers, and means you must pace yourself.
Color: Deep copper-gold
Nose: The high proof (about 61.2% ABV) is evident on the first pass or two, with alcohol heat being a predominant impression. But as you get past that, you pick up notes of warm baking spice, almond, orange candy, vanilla, and burnt sugar.
Palate: On the approach, the higher proof is evident, but not overwhelming. Up front, baking spices and orange notes are present, along with a hint of warm raisin. Mid-palate, it is full-bodied, oil, and chewy. At the back of the palate, nutmeg, allspice, orange, and dark chocolate dominate.
Finish: A long, satisfying finish with notes of dark chocolate, orange and cinnamon, with just a hint of wet tobacco
When you approach the tiny stone house that fronts the not-so-big Aberlour distillery, you’ll swear you’ve stepped back in time to a Scottish fairyland, albeit one that smells of fermenting grains and distilled alcohol. Next to the distillery is a small, rocky stream where salmon still run and mossy wooden columns filled with dark, jagged basalt boulders (called “whinstone”) used to naturally filter waste water coming from the distillery to return it to the stream. Take the tour and you’ll see the gleaming copper pot stills, with sharply angled, nearly flat swan-necked columns pumping out scotch whisky. When you make it to the tasting room and gift shop, you’ll see two massive casks filled with whisky you can “tap” yourself (for a price): one filled with whisky aged 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels and one 12 years in ex-sherry barrels.
This is where Aberlour distinguishes itself from most other Speyside region distilleries (apart from The Macallan): While most of the region’s distilleries rely on the lighter caramel notes that ex-bourbon casks impart, allowing the heather-and-honey notes of the whisky to shine through, Aberlour offers up a variety of sensations, including the all-sherry-influenced A’Bunadh. Though it is a non-age-statement whisky, much of the contents of the bottle are aged between 5 and 25 years, and the extra-aged components are evident in the deep, rich character of the whisky.
Like all of Aberlour’s single malts, A’Bunadh is non-chill filtered, which means all the fusels and oils can show up as a “clouding” agent or droplets if left to sit for several years or thrown in the freezer (don’t do that). But it also means you get all the flavor, all the complexity, and all the “chewiness” that accompanies the traditional process. Though there is some concern that so-called NAS (non-age-statement) whiskies allow distilleries to obscure what’s going on in the bottle, it’s pretty clear Aberlour wants to show off what it can do without the restrictions age statements can bring to the bottle.
It’s also released in batches (the bottle reviewed here is Batch 69). Aficionados will rate and rank the various batches (and the last two or three seem to be darker, suggesting the inventory Aberlour has been using for this expression continues to age), but really, for most drinkers, the differences among batches are subtle.
This is a warm, chewy, high-alcohol cask-strength single malt (Batch 69 clocks in at 61.2% ABV) and it commands attention. The whisky is non-peated, so you’re not going to get any smoky or seaside notes. Instead it’s all about the oloroso sherry influences: candied orange, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, dark chocolate. Though the ABV is pretty high, there is nothing “tight” or brash about the spirit: It enters warm and full-bodied, and the long finish is pleasant and relaxing. This is fireside whisky, winter-lodge whisky, dark-chocolate-pairing whisky. It’s delicious.
If the “cooked fruits and baking spice” richness of ex-sherry influenced scotch isn’t for you, the brand recently released A’Bunadh Alba, a similar expression aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. It’s the first “formal line extension” for A’Bunadh and highlights brighter fruit notes, such as apple and citrus, along with the vanilla, honey, and caramel overlays that ex-bourbon barrels bring.
A’Bunadh is Gaelic for “The Original” and was created (according to the company) as a tribute to Aberlour’s founder, James Fleming.