Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018
84.55/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)
The Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (meaning ‘rare cask’) first appeared at the end of 2017. About 6 months later the legendary Aberlour A’bunadh almost doubled in price causing fans to froth at the mouth and swear allegiance to the likes of the Glenfarclas 105. Some quarters felt that the Casg Annamh had been introduced to replace the A’bunadh but this was mostly based on both whiskies having a batch number. A year after the launch of the Casg Annamh and it’s still only on Batch 0001. The A’bunadh has had 62 releases in 21 years, quite typically 3 or 4 releases per year in recent years (but only two in 2018, perhaps due to the price increase reducing sales). The big difference between the Casg Annamh and A’bunadh is the strength. The Casg Annamh is fixed at 48% and the A’bunadh is cask strength around 60%. Basically they’re two different beasts.
So how has the Casg Annamh done in its first year? 84.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It’s doing better than the standard Aberlour 16yo (83.2/100), which costs about £15 more than the Casg Annamh. By the time you get to the Aberlour 18yo (85.5/100) it’s over £80 so you might as well buy the A’bunadh. Comments online about the Casg Annamh include, “enjoyed this more than A’bunadh. Whereas A’bunadh is a whisky disguised by sherry, Casg Annamh is a whisky featuring sherry without covering up the other flavours within”, “it contains considerably younger whisky than the 15YO, but makes up for that by a higher level of first fill and a higher ABV” and “an excellent value dram which won’t disappoint any sherry cask enthusiast”.
You have to feel this new Aberlour has found its place in the market. Currently £60 for a litre at certain airports it’s good value for what it is. But after a year of ‘batch 1’ it’s definitely not a ‘rare cask’ as the Gaelic name implies.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ on YouTube (May 2018):
Bought: Waitrose, 18th October 2017
87.52/100 – Whiskybase (from 23 member votes)
Aberlour distillery first introduced the A’bunadh (meaning ‘the origin’) back in 1997 so 2017 marked 20 years of this delectable dram. Each batch is cask strength at around 60% and is a single malt blended from barrels aged between 5 and 25 years. From the batches I’ve tried over the years I’ve never detected young whisky in the mix in a negative way. Whoever blends the A’bunadh at Aberlour distillery certainly knows how to combine young and old spirit for best effect. The A’bunadh is exclusively matured in Spanish oak from Oloroso sherry butts and is bottled without being chill filtered or having additional colouring. This is natural sherried Speyside single malt at its very best.
All whisky collectors have regrets and one of mine is deciding not to buy an A’bunadh batch 28 or 29 in 2014. A shop in Holland I was using had them for €89. It seemed too expensive at the time but bottles are now fetching over £120 at auctions today. The earliest batch I’ve tried is No.45 and I saved a 10cl sample of it for posterity. I feel like I’ve missed out on the evolution of the A’bunadh. But according to reviews it’s not as if the earlier batches were better than the most recent releases. The whole point behind the A’bunadh was to replicate an old bottle of Aberlour from 1898, which was discovered at the distillery in 1975. So batch 1 should in theory be very similar in taste and quality to batch 60. But everyone will have their favourite and specific tasting notes vary from batch to batch.
Scoring over 87/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score but very typical for an A’bunadh. If you have batch 59, and you enjoy good sherry-bomb malt, you wont be disappointed!
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Dark chocolate and raisins, with underlying vanilla-rich malt persisting.
Palate: Coffee and walnut cake, blackcurrant squash, mince pie crust and ground clove.
Finish: Beeswax and honey, damson jam, black pepper, nutmeg and digestive biscuits.
Bought: Waitrose, 25th February 2016
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2017 (“a truly beautiful whisky” – Jim Murray)
87.13/100 – Whiskybase (average from 32 member votes)
The iconic Aberlour sherry-bomb does it again with another fantastic batch. After 52 previous batches the staff at Aberlour distillery obviously know what the formula is to keep delivering a quality product. The members of Whiskybase clearly agree because over 87/100 is a fantastic score. Here are the side-by-side scores comparing batch 53 with the previous 3 batches:
- 87.13/100 – Batch 53 (32 votes)
- 87.9/100 – Batch 52 (41 votes)
- 85.72/100 – Batch 51 (38 votes)
- 86.23/100 – Batch 50 (104 votes)
Comments about the taste of batch 53 include “orange, chocolate and lots of peppery zing”, “apple, cranberry, toffee, peach and incense” and “sweet, creamy, cherry, fruity (melon), honey” with several reviewers saying how complex this batch is with lovely chocolate notes. Summaries include “robust, heavy, very present and takes charge of your senses”, “very nice whisky” and “a great batch from Aberlour and really great value for money”.
Make mine a double!
Bought: Waitrose, 28th October 2015
88.57/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)
This is my fifth batch of one of my favourite whiskies of all time. The house style for Aberlour is medium bodied, comparatively sweet, sherry, honey, spices, fruit notes and malt. The A’bunadh is the Aberlour house style on steroids. This cask strength (usually about 60%) sherry bomb is always a pleasure to drink, especially in winter when you can feel the warmth of the first sip radiate out to your fingers and toes. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about how that feels!
Over 88/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score. Batches 50 and 51 manage to break 86/100 but over 88/100 means the majority of tasters consider Batch 52 an exceptional example of the A’bunadh. Comments include “great batch by Aberlour again”, “exceptional quality and balance” and “very good batch this one. One dram goes a long way.”
Bought: Waitrose, 16th October 2015
86.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 30 member votes)
I can’t say it surprises me that there are no written reviews on Whiskybase after 30 member votes. The A’bunadh is so iconic there can’t be much more to be said that hasn’t been said already. Sometimes I see questions being asked on the Internet like “which is better, batch 48 or 49?” This is like asking if someone prefers strawberries or raspberries. You end up with some people saying 48 and others 49. The lowest mark in recent years for the A’bunadh in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ was Batch 41, scoring 83/100, which is still “good whisky worth trying”. Batch 50 scored an incredible 95.5/100 and Jim Murray’s opening remark about the taste was “wow!” That’s my comment about every batch I’ve tried and the A’bunadh remains one of my favourite whiskies of all time.
Batch 50 scores 86.48/100 on Whiskybase so only 0.34 ahead of Batch 51. If the score were in millimetres we’d be talking a hair’s breadth of a difference. One taste bud slightly disagreed with someone else’s taste bud. Basically the question isn’t about whether a batch is good, better or best (they all are to someone) but whether the consumer wants cask strength, sherry-bomb, Speyside whisky at a very reasonable price. If the answer is yes then any batch will do.
If you’re fortunate to have a Waitrose near you, watch out for price reductions on the A’bunadh to £33.50. This has happened several times between 2013 and 2015.
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 6th April 2015
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
80.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
90/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
I feel sorry for the Aberlour 12yo. If you want a nice, inexpensive sherry Speysider, and you hear about Aberlour, you go for the 10yo. If you enjoy it and want to take your experience of Aberlour to the next level, then the cask strength A’Bunadh is often on discount in the UK for £36. The 12yo hovers between £32-£34. In 2013 I tried the 10yo and was impressed enough to go looking for more examples of Aberlour and discovered the A’Bunadh. It’s a tough act to beat, and with 4 different batches released in 2014 (47, 48, 49 and 50) if I ever had £36 spare I wouldn’t bother with the 12yo.
We’ve had nearly 5 months of 2015 and there hasn’t been a new batch of the A’Bunadh this year. Blimey! Sainsbury’s tempted me with a big discount on the 12yo (down to £26) so I went for it. Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible gives this ‘Double Cask Matured’ version of the 12yo an excellent 88.5/100 with the comment “voluptuous and mouth watering in some areas, firmer and less expansive in others. Pretty tasty in all of them.”
The Whisky Bible rates the 10yo one point less than the 12yo at 87.5/100 but that’s still an excellent mark. Whiskybase score the 10yo 83.6/100 (from 22 member votes), which is 3 points more than the 12yo. They’re both 40%, probably chill-filtered and have colour added, so there’s no difference there. It can come down to price, personal preference or what’s available in your location. Ian Logan, international brand ambassador for Chivas Brothers, said on a whisky forum in April 2015 (here) that the 10yo was remaining in the UK and France but not in other countries. It seems a shame that the rest of the world are missing out on the 10yo but, the 12yo sounds like a pretty reasonable substitute.
Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her You Tube review (Sept 2015):
Bought: Waitrose, 23rd January 2015
88.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
Having started my A’bunadh addiction with batch 45 in 2013, I’ve added batch 47 and now batch 50. It’s very early days yet in the Whiskybase ratings for this new batch, but here is how the last 6 batches stack up with their Whiskybase votes:
- 88.75/100 – Batch 50 (4 votes)
- 89.18/100 – Batch 49 (52 votes)
- 85.33/100 – Batch 48 (18 votes)
- 88.27/100 – Batch 47 (92 votes)
- 85.67/100 – Batch 46 (95 votes)
- 86.8/100 – Batch 45 (129 votes)
One thing that instantly jumps out is how consistently high the ratings are. I’m glad so many people agree with me that the A’bunadh is a fantastic dram!
Personally I prefer to have a glass of A’bunadh as my second whisky, following on from a standard strength Speyside single malt. It’s like driving a normal car before moving to a Rolls Royce to show what real luxury feels like. The comparison is quite remarkable.
Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 17th June 2014
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
This Aberlour forms part of the 24 x 20cl bottles that make up the Carn Mor Vintage Collection. Distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2012, it’s from a limited edition of 720, Cask No: 4413. Non-chill filtered and no added colour.
Bought – Waitrose, 27th May, 2014
88.17/100 – Whiskybase (average from 128 member votes)
4.6/5 – Master of Malt
84/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com (Batch 48)
Review: – Ralfy – Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 48 – YouTube (June 2014)
Having had my first taste of A’bunadh last year with Batch 45, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I bought another bottle. This cask strength, single malt was my favourite whisky of 2013. Beautifully sweet, spicy, rich flavour with a long cask strength finish. Looking at the reviews for Batch 47 on ‘Master of Malt’ it looks like the standards have been kept up for this batch. Unfortunately that might not be the case for Batch 48, as reviewed by Ralfy.
Ralfy first reviewed Batch 24, which he gave 91/100, Batch 42, which he scored 89/100. With Batch 48 it tumbles to 84/100. Still a reasonable score for Ralfy but heading towards the low point of Ralfy’s ratings. Much less (below 80/100) and he wont be reviewing it again. His first comment that struck home was when he says the finish is shorter than he’s tasted in any previous batches. That long finish was one of the A’bunadh’s strengths. He then says it’s missing the richness of the fruit, and therefore the spice element. Blimey, what’s left?! Ralfy puts the drop in quality down to a lack of maturation and sub-standard casks.
Obviously, Ralfy admits this is purely his opinion, and his experience has matured over time. What seems only worthy of 84/100 to him might be 95/100 for someone else, either less experienced or not. But I sincerely hope that my beloved A’bunadh isn’t on the slippery slope with regards to ongoing quality. Longer maturation and better casks please Aberlour!
(Update August 2015) – Added the Whiskybase rating. Here are the ratings for batch 47 and the batches before and after, according to Whiskybase members:
85.78/100 – Batch 46
88.17/100 –Batch 47
85.17/100 – Batch 48
Batch 47’s better rating really stands out, which is good to see.
Bought – Waitrose, 15th October 2013
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
86.81/100 – Whiskybase (average from 200 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 42 – YouTube
Although Ralfy’s review is for Batch 42 rather than Batch 45 I thought I’d include it because he covers some useful information about this particular brand of Aberlour. The Whisky Bible 2013 only reviews as far as Batch 41 but gives marks for a total of 16 different batches. The lowest mark is 81.5/100 but 10 out of the 16 reviewed score 90 or more. The best mark is 96/100 for Batch 33. Ralfy’s comments about the high standards Aberlour apply to this whisky gives a lot of confidence. [Update – added Whisky Bible 2015 score of 95/100, which is a fantastic score]
The reason why this particular whisky was on my wish list is because it appears in the book ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’ by Ian Buxton. He says the A’bunadh has been gaining quite a following over recent years because of its big, rich flavours. And at 60.2% cask strength ‘big’ is certainly the word for it! I feel a taste test coming on between this A’bunadh and the Glenfarclas 105.
Update – the Glenfarclas 105 lost by a mile. Although it’s a fine dram in its own right the A’bunadh had far more complexity in both the nose and taste. Batch 45 is without doubt one of my favourite whiskies of all time.