There was a day when each successive batch of a’bunadh used to light me up like a kid at Christmas. Nowadays…meh. They’re simply not up to what they used to be.
Let me qualify that: these Aberlour releases are still better than most of the watered down, colored and filtered expressions from the big brands that are hitting the market, but a’bunadh has lost the edge it once had for its delectable sweet and fruity charm. Now it’s just another cask strength (occasionally underripe) bruiser.
Even so, when my wife came home a couple months back with a bottle of this and a Kilchoman for me I was tickled pink. One…because she knows me and was kind and wonderful as always, and two…because I know readers like to hear about these storied batch releases. In short…I was more excited about writing it up for the site than I was to actually drink it. Fortunately it was decent enough to be able to enjoy both.
I think the most important thing I can possibly say here is that a’bunadh is not what it once was. Sorry. I don’t know if it is a change to sherry-seasoned casks as opposed to proper sherry butts (which I hear many in the industry are doing now)…a shift to younger malts in the batch vattings…or simply a different style the blender is aiming for. Either way, the deep, sweet, aromatic jamminess that made a’bunadh a thing of legend is now merely a background cello in an orchestra of instruments cranked up to 11. Sad really.
By no means is this a bad dram. Marks and notes below should attest to that. Unfortunately, the benefit of experience allows me to say unequivocally that this malt is on the wane. The nature of batch releases, however, ensures we’ll be curious to see if the next is a return to form.
One more important thing to say. Less than two years ago Aberlour a’bunadh was about $77 a bottle locally. A couple weeks back I saw it at $126. Shame on you, Aberlour. No amount of justification (currency exchange, market conditions, barrel shortages, etc) will ever be able to square that circle. Shameful gouging. While the wife and I do share a bank account – and ultimately I did end up paying for this ‘gift’ in a roundabout way – it needs to be made clear I would never support that kind of consumer-disrespecting audacity.
Nose: Dark jammy fruit. Creamy chocolate. Leather. Deep spicy sherry notes. A slight cherry cola-ness about it. Not nearly as fruity as old a’bunadh unfortunately. Dark toffee and a hint of both coffee and tea. Prunes and figs and such. A hint of mint.
Palate: Better. More fruit now. Berry jam on slightly burnt toast. Damp wood. Mocha. Candied orange peel. Walnut. Maraschino cherry. Dark, oily vanilla. Caramel with some fruit. Better arrival than finish.
Thoughts: A little too sharp (or too young?). Is it just me or is a’bunadh getting spicier and meatier over time? Not bad, but nowhere near its glory days.
– Images & Words: Curt