Review: Aberlour a’bunadh Highland Single Malt Batch 54
Aberlour’s cask strength a’bunadh release is a special one among single malts, as it is released in serialized batches — now at least on #58. The construction is always the same — again, cask strength whisky, 100% ex-oloroso sherry barrel aged — but each batch varies in proof and, apparently, in flavor. Notably, there’s no age statement on this whisky, so the actual time in cask may vary from batch to batch, and batches are said to be blended from whiskies aged anywhere from 5 to 25 years old. No information about the number of bottles from each batch of a’bunadh is released.
We reviewed batch #26 some years ago. Today we turn our attention to batch #54, which features an updated label and, notably, at the time of its release, it was the second highest abv of a’bunadh ever released. (Proof levels are going nowhere but up since then.) Back during my review of #26, I had some reservations about the whisky. Let’s see how things have evolved in the last eight years.
The beautiful copper color, driven by all that sherry cask time, hasn’t gone anywhere. On the nose, the whisky is outrageously complex, loaded with notes of spiced nuts, reduced/concentrated orange oil, and oiled wood. There’s a green note that’s hard to place, something akin to lemongrass and green banana — which adds even more complexity to the experience. On the palate, the whisky is bold and rich and full of flavors, including all of the above, plus some lingering red berries, black tea leaf, ginger, and cinnamon. It’s a hot whisky, and water helps to round out the edges, revealing notes of black pepper and a stronger raspberry/blackberry component — which takes things out with some light but welcome sweetness.
Freshly comparing this batch to batch 26, batch 54 is a clear leader, though today I feel perhaps I was overly harsh with my earlier assessment of #26. Today I find the whisky on the muted side, but enchanting in its own way with notes of tangerine, sandalwood, fresh tobacco leaf, and some lingering phenols. Either way, I’ll keep checking out a’bunadh as I encounter it — and you should too.