One of the liquor stores I frequent has a whisky specialist on staff. He's been to Scotland several times, and loves to tell stories about it. For example, he peed in the Glenlivet river, and told me "the '99 vintage may be a little saltier than usual." He sort of ribs me about being a bourbon guy, as he feels that with his age and palate, he needs the complexities of scotch. He stocks some good American whisky though, featuring most of the High West products, Anchor Distilling ryes, and the occasional Van Winkle bourbon. When I asked him to recommend a scotch or two, he pointed immediately to Aberlour A'bunadh.
A'bunadh (meaning "of the origin") has no age statement in order to give distiller the freedom to use any casks to achieve the flavor profile they are going for in any given batch. My bottle is from batch #38, 60.3 alcohol by volume. That will punch you in the mouth, for sure. It's aged exclusively in Oloroso Sherry butts, again, not for a specific time frame, though estimates put the average age of the final product between 9-12 years. This is the first whisky I've tasted in my new Glencarin tasting glass, which was pretty great by the way. Look for a glassware post down the line. Let's give A'bunadh a run.
Color-Rich, mahogany color, due to the high proof.
Nose-Definitely get the sherry. And honey and vanilla. This is a non-peated malt, so no smoke here.
Taste-The first thing I noticed was tons of spice, like an atomic fireball. The whole taste was a whirlwind, rushing over the tongue and down into the throat. It was very syrupy, coating the mouth. Oaky, sherry, sweet, fruity, juicy. Jim Murray says that if he nosed it blind, he would have thought it was pot distilled demerarra rum. I didn't get that so much on the nose, but there is a rumminess, if you will, in the taste, like a freshness and a sweetness. Murray also mentioned some milk chocolote notes. I got more vanilla than chocolote. Michael Jackson says Aberlour's house style is nutty, spicy, and describes some of the Aberlour lineup as cedary, cigar box-like. This whisky was more juicy than dry like cedar, perhaps it's the high proof.
Finish-Lingering, coats the throat as it did the mouth. Rich.
Value-For me, this is a great value. Plenty of bang for your buck with the high proof. Between 50-60 bucks, similarly priced to a lot of entry level single malts, and it performs very well.
Intangible-This is a bourbon lover's malt. Very sweet and aggressive, but textured and nuanced nonetheless, despite being non-peated. You may need water with this one, I probably should have added a few drops to open it up, but I like to try things as they are the first go round. I'm not sure why cask strength scotches tend to use a variety of age ranges, would a cask strength 15 year old be too oaky? In any case, this is wonderful stuff, I'd recommend you get your hands on a bottle of it.