We’ve already reviewed a few Aberlour on these pages. Aberlour is a distillery with a strong presence in France, which is not surprising as it is owned, through Chivas Brothers, by Pernod Ricard. Aberlour’s range is kind of separated in two parts. The first part is the ‘supermarket range’, with age statements but low 40% ABV and quite affordable prices, and the second part is more like the ‘off-licence range’, with higher ABVs up to cask strength and single casks, but mostly non-age statement expressions, like the famous A’Bunadh. We’re reviewing today a recent (but not the latest) batch of A’Bunadh, the #65, and put it against a single cask Aberlour 2011 bottled by Cadenhead’s.
Aberlour 2011 Cadenhead Review
Cadenhead bottled this Aberlour 2011 in 2020 after being finished since 2018 in an Oloroso sherry cask, resulting in quite a dark colour. This autumn 2020 release from Cadenhead’s Wood Range – Sherry Cask yielded 294 bottles filled at 55% ABV. Although not explicitly stated on the label, it is likely that this expression is non-chill filtered and natural-coloured. Regrettably, it is currently sold out, and the recommended retail price (RRP) was approximately £60.
Neat: This whisky doesn’t quite match its dark colour as a sherry bomb. Instead, it offers notes of duck grease, plum, cherry liqueur chocolate, candied figs, new leather jacket, and ginger. Although it smells lightly hot, it’s not overpowering.
With water: The nose becomes more subdued, and the flavours become less distinct and less intense.
Neat: This Aberlour has a hotter arrival than anticipated based on the nose. The flavours of dark cherries, butterscotch, ripe figs, and dates are complemented by bitter and slightly herbal wood notes. The modern oloroso finish profile is not very well integrated.
With water: With the addition of water, the flavours of cherries become more pronounced, with some notes of ginger, dark chocolate, and hints of apricot finally coming through, along with a bowl of strawberries.
The finish is long and persistent, with the bitterness and herbal notes from the palate lingering. The flavours of cherry liqueur chocolates remain prominent in the aftertaste.
Upon first nosing this whisky, I was initially taken aback that it wasn’t the sherry bomb that I was anticipating. However, this wasn’t a major issue for me. On the palate, I felt that the oloroso finish was too overpowering and resulted in too much bitterness and herbal notes. It seemed that a recently seasoned oloroso cask was used, which may have been too modern for Aberlour’s delicate spirit (which is otherwise lovely). Adding water unfortunately dulled the nose, making it less distinct, but it did help the typical Aberlour’s apricot notes to emerge from behind the oloroso layer on the palate.
Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch #65 Review
This official Aberlour A’Bunardh batch #65 was actually released prior to the Cadenhead bottling, back in 2019. This expression is not a single cask, but rather a vatting of Spanish Oloroso Sherry Butts and does not carry an age statement. However, there is some uncertainty around the oak used for maturation – while the sherry is Spanish, it is unclear whether the oak itself also is of Spanish origin. Bottled at cask strength, this single malt weighs in at a hefty 59.5% ABV for this batch and has not been subjected to chill filtration or coloration. While a few stores still have this whisky in stock, according to Whiskybase, the price is now significantly higher than its original retail price. In fact, some individuals are selling it on the WB marketplace for around €60, which is likely more than its initial cost.
Neat: The nose on this one is more pronounced than the Cadenhead expression. Initially, the aroma is dominated by the heat from the high ABV, but with a bit of time, Aberlour’s signature apricots begin to emerge, along with notes of orange, honey, melon, and even hints of tobacco and leather-bound books.
With water: Adding water reveals a whole new dimension to the nose, with fragrances of hazelnuts, coconut shavings, and almond oil joining the mix, along with a subtle scent of fresh strawberries.
Neat: The palate on this one has a thick, oily arrival, but is less intense than the nose might suggest. Initially, there are flavours of apricot jam and milk chocolate, followed by notes of red berries. These give way to a subtle bitterness from the tea leaves, along with some wood spices and additional chocolate notes. Towards the end, there are hints of ground coffee beans and fruitcake.
With water: Adding water brings out a more sherried profile, with nutty flavours complementing the red berries. There are also notes of tobacco leaves and a hint of leather.
The finish is medium in length and characterised by flavours of ginger and cinnamon, along with the return of the red berries and apricot notes from the palate. Towards the end, there is a subtle hint of menthol cigarettes.
Similar to the Cadenhead expression, this A’Bunadh batch #65 was not a heavy sherry bomb. However, it showcased more of Aberlour’s natural character. The initial alcohol heat on the nose required some time to dissipate before the fruity and ‘light’ sherry notes emerged. On the palate, the sherry influence was subdued when tasted neat, but it still provided a fruity profile with some smoky notes. Adding water, on the other hand, brought out more of the traditional oloroso flavours such as nuttiness, tobacco, leather, and red berries. While it may not be the best batch of A’Bunadh I’ve tried, it was still a good one.