Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Aberlour A’Bunadh – then (1998) and now (2024)

The last time I had a modern Aberlour A'Bunadh in my glass was around Christmas 2017. Long live Instagram, on which I keep a personal diary and every now and then post a pic of bottles. Aberlour keeps on numbering the batches. That one was #56. After pouring a glass to my father-in-law, he complained I ruined his taste. Where before he was fine drinking decent blends, now he's got the taste for quality sherried whisky. My apologies, of course.

The time came to replenish the A'Bunadh stock with a new bottle. Batch #80 coming up here! We will taste it today. Also, I will add some notes from a very early version, before batch numbering started. This was way back in 1998 if the expression we taste today is any indication. Let’s just say I regard the A’Bunadh series as one of the big monuments in Scotch malt whisky. Personally, I think it even eclipsed the Glenfarclas 105, but I should get a sample of that soon too.

Aberlour A'Bunadh, batch #80, bottled at 61 % abv

Makeup: Matured in Spanish oloroso sherry butts. Consequently for the entire series (as far as I know), there is no age statement. The stuff comes straight from the cask and is non chill-filtered.

General impressions: As I am used to with the A'Bunadh, the smell coming from the glass is squeaky clean. At this strength it is a bit difficult to go really deep into the glass. I get nice caramel notes, liquid chocolate and hints of glue. Here we have to nitpick on the description: the bottle states "Spanish oloroso" but does this also mean the wood is Spanish? I get an impression I normally pick up from American oak. Some pencil shavings. After some breathing time the smell of peaches emerge.

The taste is leaning towards the nutty flavour profile, so yeah, modern sherry. Now, where the batch 56 (I retasted a sample from my personal library) was more abundantly on red fruit sherry, this is chocolatey and woody bitter in style. Water gives way to a more fruity style, like apricot, mango and peach. Doesn't sound bad eh, and it isn't.

Conclusion: The Aberlour A'Bunadh is a trustworthy, decent single malt with typical Speyside character, improved by dominant sherry casks. I have had more complex batches in the glass, but this one is still a fine dram. It never disappoints.

Score: 84 points

Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned bottle

Aberlour A’Bunadh, bottled in 1998 at 59,6 % abv

Makeup: The box stresses here that we are drinking a natural single cask strength malt whisky, taken directly from oak casks and is bottled as simply as possible, “without the use of contemporary filtering methods or the addition of water”. Beautiful! These boxes I could read for days on end, instead of made up stories about fictional monsters…

General impressions: So full with flavour, all on juicy redness, not only the ones like strawberry and cranberries, but also bright shining red apples. When I first tasted this particular sample, it was in a blind setting, so without knowing the contents of the glass. My guess immediately strayed to a 1972 GlenDronach or heavy hitting classic Macallan. Paxarette involved. But it was this rather humble Aberlour, to my surprise. The rounded character of the expression, in full balance, is truly stunning. Like eating croissant with strawberry marmalade. There is spicy chocolate making the whole very interesting and complex.

Conclusion: Like I said, when tasting this blind, I almost mistook it for other impressive single malts, not all of them from Scotland actually. This is stunning sherried whisky, worth looking out for. I got a little carried away with scoring, but this still deserves high praise. It just ticks all the boxes of what I like in this kind of offering.

Score: 92 points

Disclaimer: sample acquired through membership of a Blind Tasting Bottle Club.

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