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: 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 – 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.