Whisky Review #78: Aberlour A’Bunadh Double Header – Batch #47 vs Batch #56

Aberlour seems to make a periodic appearance on this blog, primarily due to its accessibility and availability at Duty Free and at other sources. Whisky drinkers in Singapore also tend to gravitate towards Aberlour due to its mellow, yet rich and complex character and clever use of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry whiskies.

But more often than not, people will go for the cask strength NAS expression within the core range, the A’Bunadh. This expression is released in batches (with no word on how large each batch is or how many casks have gone into each batch) and each batch is made up of whisky which has been matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at varying cask strength ABVs.

This week’s review focuses on two rather interesting (and disparate) batches which showcase different elements and different characters. If anything, these two batches would be great representations of how batch variation affects different whiskies bottled under the same label.

In one corner, we have the Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #47, which was released sometime in early 2014 and has been bottled at a cask strength abv of 60.7% by the distillery. In the other corner, we have the Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #56, which was released sometime in the latter half of 2016 and has been bottled at a cask strength abv of 61.2% by the distillery.

As I have previously delved into the history of Aberlour as well as some of the expressions which make up the core and limited ranges, I will not rehash history and rather point my readers to where they may be able to find these pieces of information: Aberlour

So, let’s jump right into the reviews!

aberlour-abunadh-batch-47-whisky
Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #47

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #47 (60.7% abv)

Colour: Reddish copper

Nose: Initial entry presents the expected hit of alcohol followed by pronounced sherried notes and a hint of sulphur. Red fruits such as apricots, nectarines and dates intermingle well with demerara sugar, black pepper and hints of oak. There is a good level of sweetness without it being cloying and the nose is rather nicely rounded despite the high alcohol strength. (22/25)

Palate: Rich, intense and sweet, with a noticeable amount of heat brought on by the alcohol strength. Once again, not as sweet as one would expect, although it does have a hint of the demerara sugar detected on the nose. Fairly well-rounded and there is a bit of oakiness and some allspice in the mix.

The palate does become increasingly sweet over time though, with more of the red fruits from the nose emerging. Very smooth and doesn’t need water, just time. (23/25)

Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with the red fruits, oak and spices dominating to the very end. The finish is so long that you can still taste traces of the red fruits and oak two hours after the final sip has been taken! (23/25)

Balance: A very well-balanced and well-rounded dram which possesses a good level of complexity and smoothness. The mouthfeel is oily for the most part, but there is a fair of dryness which creeps in towards the end. Classic A’Bunadh!

Rating: 89/100

aberlour-abunadh-batch-56-whisky
Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #56

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #56 (61.2% abv, WITHOUT water)

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: A blast of alcohol on initial entry, which is no surprise. As the alcohol subsides, sherried raisins, hints of acetone, a pronounced oakiness, nutmeg and some black pepper emerge. The sherry is intense, but not particularly sweet.

Hints of stewed plums, dates and demerara sugar emerge towards the end, but the alcohol is rather intrusive and pervades every aspect of the nosing experience. In some sense, there is a correlation between this batch and Batch #52. (20/25)

Palate: Sweet, slightly drying and with a tiny bit of heat on the tip of the tongue upon initial entry, with the sherry exhibiting a restrained sweetness which is still more apparent on the palate than on the nose.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper emerge after some time and proceed to dry out the palate, but not completely. Some of the demerara sugar and stewed plums survive the deluge of spice and heat to make it through to the end along with some sherried raisins. (18/25)

Finish:Medium on the finish, with the remainder of the sherried raisins, stewed plums and demerara sugar giving way to the oak, which proceeds to dry out the palate completely, although not as quickly as the spices did beforehand. The spices have faded completely though, leaving the oak as the last element standing. (17/25)

Balance: Not particularly balanced, in all honesty. The nose provided a rather accurate foreshadowing of what was to be tasted and it feels rather disjointed. (17/25)

Rating: 70/100

NOTE: I felt that this was one of those batches which required some water and time, which is why I proceeded to add a teaspoon of chilled water and then left it to its own devices for 10 minutes before revisiting it for another look-in.

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #56 (61.2% abv, WITH water)

Colour: Same as above

Nose: Initial entry presents a slightly less alcoholic note and it does seem more mellow now. There is an interesting cigar smoke and tobacco pouch note present now and it brings out more of the sweetness of the demerara sugar and dates.

Stewed plums, hints of nutmeg and black pepper all emerge after some time, but they are noticeably softer now. A much more approachable nosing experience. (21/25)

Palate: Sweeter and more rounded than before, with the heat on the palate reduced to just a tingling sensation rather than an outright bonfire. The heat does increase over time, but not to the detriment of the overall sweetness.

Stewed plums, demerara sugar, dates and sherried raisins all present themselves along with some black pepper and oak as well as the cigar smoke and tobacco pouch elements. Much better than the previous tasting experience. (23/25)

Finish: Medium on the finish, with more of the sweetness from the stewed plums and demerara sugar making an appearance along with the natural sweetness of the sherry. The character of the dram is more discernible now and the reduction of the alcohol strength’s bite is a welcome change. (21/25)

Balance: Let’s just say that the addition of water as well as a bit of time works wonders. (22/25)

Rating: 87/100

I would definitely recommend that water be added to Batch #56 as it is far too robust and unyielding at cask strength. If anything, these two drams provide a really good look at how batch variation can produce whiskies which are on the opposite ends of the spectrum from one another.

While Batch #47 has been sold out for quite a while now, Batch #56 can still be purchased from Master of Malt for £39.03 ex-VAT. Do act fast as The Whisky Exchange doesn’t have any stock and Master of Malt will surely soon follow.

Until the next post, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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