A’bunadh Batch #52 (2015) 60.5%

During our December sampling session, one of our fellow tasters brought along an Abelour A’bunadh. It is remarkable to  realize they are on to batches in the 50s… and soon to hit 60! I still have fond memories of their sherry bombs of the 20s…

But  on to this one… what did we think?

Abelour A’bunadh Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No 52 (NAS 2015) 60.5%

  • Nose – As expected – a complete sherry bomb, lots of chewy black cherries, Christmas cake, dark dried fruits, almost rum like
  • Taste – Christmas cake, a drizzle of caramel, warm and smooth, apply cider, raisins, prunes, robust and bursting with character, a little ginger, creamy and very berry Christmassy
  • Finish – Sweet spice with more of those dark cherries
  • Water – As always, opens up with a generous dollop of water

Worked for us and met every expectation for a Christmas sherry bomb dram!

And what about other Aberlour experiences?

And other drams sampled in our chilled out evening?

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a swallows and discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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Whisky Archives – Cracking open the cabinet…

Another from the tasting archives… this time from Sept 2011. Rediscovering these notes brought a flood memories of my previous Mumbai flat… that had a fabulous cabinet in which all my whisky was stashed… now replaced in our current home by a larger storage space waaaaay up high in our kitchen pantry.

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskies were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed!

Samplings from earlier sessions - all quaffed at one occasion!

Speyside‘s dominated the evening with:

  • Aberlour’s cask strength Abu’nadh batch 32 (sampled earlier) and batch 31 were compared. Batch 31 was a clear winner and a hit of the evening! Bold yet with an extraordinary warm finish… with layers to discover and enjoy.
  • Aberlour 10 year held its own with slight smokiness and butter, however was overshadowed by it’s cask strength cousin.
  • Cragganmore 12 year was softer on the palate and a nice contrast to the Abelours
  • Glenrothes 12 year (also sampled earlier) gained appreciation for its smooth fruity aroma, sherry note and oak, medium slightly spicy finish.

Islay‘s were represented by a few familiar friends:

  • Bunnahabhain 12 year 40% is a regular favourite with several folks
  • Caol Ila is also well-known and after the last drop of one bottle was polished off, another was opened… Need one say more?
  • Lagavulin 16 year was also a familiar friend but neglected with all the other options…

Highland

  • Dalwhinnie from the highest distillery in Scotland was a delightful gentler ‘everyday’ favourite

Japan

  • Suntory’s Hakushu 18 year…. In a class of its own with hints of forest, moss, nuanced, with a divine finish – simply exquisite. It remains one of my favourites!

Canada

  • Crown Royal from Gimli, Manitoba (my home province) certainly added a different element with rye, however alas outclassed by single malt companions

Naturally what’s expressed here is only one interpretation based on snippets of conversation and personal bias. Would love to hear others opinions on any of these whiskies…

Slainthe!

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Christmas Sherry Bomb – Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No 35 60.3%

One of the first cask strength whiskies I remember picking up was Abelour A’bunadh. I was in Singapore airport, they had lots of different whiskies to sample however this one caught my eye. I will admit, I knew next to nothing about it at the time…but it was very affordable, I hadn’t tried it before so it joined my journey back to Bombay.

It was opened with a mad group of friends and became a hit. For many, it was also their first introduction to an unabashed sherry bomb. And yes it packs a punch with alcohol ranging from high 50s to low 60s.

Over the years, more than one A’bunadh has made its way in and out of my collection. While it is No Age Statement (NAS) blended from barrels between 5 to 25 years, you can tell immediately by the batch number what year the whisky was bottled. And there are slight variations between batches though the overall rich robust berry sherry element remains the core profile you can count on.

Most A’bunadh’s I’ve had were from the 20s… however a few from the 30s too.  Then we started our whisky tasting group and a whole new world of whiskies opened up! And Abelour’s A’bunadh was no longer a priority when passing through Singapore. However as it remains an affordable dram, I did pick up a bottle or two a few years ago. Which meant that I had both a Batch No 35 (bottled 2011) and Batch 40 (bottled 2012) kicking around in my cupboard.

For Diwali, Batch No 35 joined the Whisky Ladies Cask Strength evening – which was greeted by enthusiastic delight from one friend who remembered well our earlier A’bunadh evenings. Her infectious appreciation lead in no small part to the bottle being well dipped into that night!

20151229_A'bunadh

So when I was in the mood for something ‘Christmasy’ while we still had our tree up, revisiting the A’bunadh seemed about right. Overall, my findings were in complete agreement with our Whisky Ladies with only a few additional elements here and there.

Abelour A’bunadh Batch No 35 (NAS / 2011) 60.3%

  • Colour – A deep dark burgundy with ruby highlights
  • Nose – Figs, rum soaked plum cake, lots of cinnamon and cloves, gingerbread,  pronounced prunes, black cherries, Christmas cake, classic sherry-bomb
  • Taste – Oh baby! That rummy yummy rich plummy Christmas cake, a drizzle of caramel, warm and smooth, apply cider, raisins, prunes, robust and bursting with character, a little ginger, creamy and very berry Christmassy
  • Finish – Think curling up by a cosy warm fireplace… replete with roasting chestnuts, cinnamon
  • Water – This one works straight yet also does a happy dance with drops or a dollop!

Absolutely perfect for a chilly evening (ok that means 22’c in these parts!), with a kitten curled up purring beside me, watching the Christmas lights dance in our tree.

And just in case you were curious, here’s what the folks over at Abelour had to say about A’bunadh:

  • Nose: Terrific aromas of allspice, praline and spiced orange, in harmony with deep notes of Oloroso Sherry.
  • Palate: Orange, black cherries, dried fruit and ginger, spiked with dark bitter chocolate and enriched with lingering Sherry and oak. Superlatively full bodied and creamy.
  • Finish: Robust and long lasting, with bittersweet notes of exotic spices, dark chocolate and oak.

In short absolutely hits the spot for a Christmas sherry bomb dram!

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Whisky Ladies Conquer a Cask Strength Diwali!!

We are no shy retiring missish lasses… no siree! Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies aren’t afraid to take on a trio of cask strength malts against the backdrop of India’s Festival of Lights – Diwali! After all, if firecrackers are bursting around us, why not have a few sherry bombs and whisky booms delighting our senses?

Last night we explored:

20151112_105,Chichibu2009,A'bunadh

And here is what we found…

Glenfarclas 105 NAS 60%

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Smells like Christmas! Very sherry-y, caramel, then vanilla notes as it opens up
  • Taste – Sweet, dark and smokey, honeyed prunes, raisins, nutty and chocolatey
  • Finish – Smooth yet also quite dry – especially with a few drops of pani (water)
  • Pairing – We just happened to have a few truffles on hand… so naturally started testing out pairings and pronounced it successful though “The kick comes back after a hit of chocolate truffles!”

Comments…

  • “It’s just like bad life choices… with caramel”
  • “Like cafe patron!”
  • “No sweet tooth here, just alcohol tooth!”
  • “Now it is simply a sherry wine bomb!”

This Speyside dram got things off to a rollicking start! Some missed the step of… “Perhaps you may wish to spit your 1st sip as going from 0% to 60% in the first swig can be a bit jarring. However our ladies were undaunted and found it became increasingly dangerous as this dram does go down rather well, easy to just keep sipping and sipping and sipping…

Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu 2009 French White Oak Cask #2357 63.1%

  • Colour – Golden straw
  • Nose – A little spicy, very sweet, light floral notes and yet can pack a punch or hit you between the eyes too!
  • Taste – Cayenne pepper, very summer-y and light, flirty, smooth yet confusing, bright and bubbly
  • Finish – Deceptive… there but much more subtle than the aroma and palate would indicate
  • Water – A couple drops of water rounds it out
  • Pairing – For some, the Chichibu and strawberries was a killer combination – who needs champagne if you have an effervescent whisky? For others, it was the brie cheese that did it. And the balance? Well… let’s just say there are a few of the opinion that chocolate goes with practically everything, doesn’t it?

Comments…

  • “From the wrong angle, just a sniff will get you!”
  • “While light and flirty, if you look at it the wrong way, it will kick you in the ass!”

This young Japanese single cask has many unique qualities and distinctly different from the straightforward Glenfarclas. It has a bright light element that completely belies its strength. Again – a dangerous combination!

Abelour A’bunadh Batch No 35 60.3%

  • Colour – A deep dark burgundy with ruby highlights
  • Nose – Cinnamon and cloves, gingerbread, honey, pronounced prunes, black cherries, Christmas cake, classic sherry-bomb
  • Taste – Apple cider, caramel, warm and smooth, very ‘Christmassy’, rum-soaked raisins, robust and bursting with character
  • Finish – Think curling up by a cosy warm fireplace…
  • Water – This one works straight yet also does a happy dance with drops or a dollop!
  • Pairing – Best with a sharp old cheddar, needs something that can hold its own with such brilliant flavours.

Comments…

  • “Beautiful things are happening in my nose! And its not what you are thinking!”
  • “This is one you notice every sip… and yes! It is probably getting you drunk…”

When the A’bunadh came out, there was literally a squeal of delight from one lady – as she would be re-uniting her taste buds with an old favourite. Talk turned to the slight shifts in flavour profiles between batches, fruitless efforts to track down certain batches from the 20s! Disbelief they are now into the 50s and a recommendation to simply ‘grab it’ if you see it!

What makes this Speyside stand out is its unabashed sherry quality. Rather than simply acquiring a sherry ‘finish,’ A’bunadh matures exclusively in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts, gaining a rich, robust and surprisingly well rounded profile.

Even better was the realisation that the price point for both Speysides remains reasonable (i.e. below $70) though the Japanese is near impossible to find at any price!

Our whisky ladies relished this cask strength trio – without a doubt a Diwali night to remember!

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