Posts tagged ‘Aberlour’

Phil’s Favorite Speyside Single Malts

There is no region of whisky-making in the world more renowned or more compacted with distilleries than the Speyside region of Scotland.  A great many of the famed whiskies of the world hail from this famous river valley.  And, with so much having already been said about it by more qualified persons than me, I’ll waste little time in getting to my nominees.

Name: Aberlour A’Bunadh

Batch: #39

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 119.6 (59.8% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: Many of the older batches of the A’Bunadh could have made this list because there have been many brilliant iterations of this wonderful whisky.  It is a batching of old and young whiskies, all aged in first fill ex-Oloroso Sherry butts.  This particular batch is amazingly complex, with rich wood spices, sweet dark fruits, tangy citrus peel, and decadent toffee and butterscotch.  This batch was deep and full, and presented something new every time I sipped it.  Aberlour A’Bunadh is still a readily available whisky, although I have to admit that some of the more recent batches have not reached the heights of some of the older ones I have had the pleasure of sipping.  Even still, at cask strength and aged in first fill Oloroso butts, it’s a great value buy.

Name: The Balvenie 21 Year-Old Portwood

Batch: N/A

Age: 21 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $200-225/750ml

Notes: This expression of The Balvenie was one of the first super-premium Scotches to utilize cask finishing when it was developed by famed maltmaster, David Steward, in 1995.  It is every bit as good of a whisky today as it was then.  It is aged principally in hogsheads for 21 long years before being transferred into port pipes for the final stage of their journey.  This process exudes flavors of nutty flavors, backed up by baking spices, rich dried fruits like apricot and pineapple, and drying dark chocolate.  This is a readily available expression of whisky in most fine liquor stores, and although it does cost a good deal of money, there are few gifts the whisky lover in your life will appreciate more.

Name: Glendronach 21 Year-Old Parliament

Batch: N/A

Age: 21 Years

Proof: 96 (48% abv)

Price: $150-175/750ml

Notes: There is perhaps no whisky I have tried in my travels that looks quite so impressive in the glass as this one.  It is aged 21 long years in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks and bottled without artificial coloring or chill-filtration, giving it a rich dark maple syrup appearance.  It is a rich, robust, viscous whisky, almost chewy.  Antiquated libraries with Oxford Dons sipping sherry come rolling through the memory as this whisky cascades across the palate.  All the rich chocolate and mocha flavors with subtle spices that one would expect from an old sherried dram are evident here in large quantities, such that taking your time with this whisky and letting it open up for you provides the best whisky experience.  This is not an impossible whisky to find if you frequent higher end liquor stores, and it is a very reasonable price for its age and casking.

Name: The Glenlivet XXV

Batch: N/A

Age: 25 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $350-400/750ml

Notes: At the time of its release, this whisky was intended to be a mainstay in The Glenlivet’s Classic Range, but with the massive demand for premium Scotch these days, the distillery no longer releases this on a regular basis, but it is released in small batches on occasion.  After its principle aging, which ranges around 25 years, the barrels that are to comprise this expression are married for 1-3 years in first fill Sherry butts, eliciting a rich layer of flavor.  What makes this whisky so unique is that it drinks like a young whisky and an old whisky at the same time.  It has only spent a short time in Sherry casks, so the musty sherry notes of old sherried drams are not present.  Rather, this whisky layers dark chocolate and fresh gingerbread over the top of rich vanilla, spiced almonds, and creamy blood oranges.  This is a very hard whisky to find, but if you can find it, it is one of the classic drams from Speyside, and certainly my favorite whisky from arguably the most famous Scotch distillery in the world.

Name: The Macallan 18 Year-Old Sherry Oak

Batch: 1996 Vintage

Age: 18 years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $175-200/750ml

Notes: This is perhaps the most famous sherried malt in all the whisky world, and for good reason.  Just about any iteration of Macallan 18 could have clocked in on this list, but I’ve chosen my personal favorite.  Sticking my nose in a glass of this was one of the great pleasures I have had in my time drinking whisky.  The nose has rich mahogany, spiced walnuts, and saddle leather.  This whisky works beautifully between sweet sherried flavors and spicier flavors such as ginger and orange peel.  This whisky has been called the epitome of an aged sherried Speysider, and I can see why.  This one is not so hard to find if you frequent luxury liquor establishments, but for an 18 year-old whisky, it is expensive, so be sure you have a special occasion on which to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Comparison Review: The Standard Range

The holiday season is upon us, which usually means there is a bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh somewhere on my shelf.  However, I live in Pennsylvania now, and that particular single malt is a rather hard and expensive find nowadays (it has been replaced by another cask strength sherried dram).  So, in memory of the days long ago when this majestic single malt graced my cabinet, I’m reviewing some other Aberlour whiskies instead.  Today’s review will encompass the standard range (save the A’bunadh).

Santa Claus

Photo Courtesy: whiskydisks.com

Aberlour 12 year-old – This is the base malt at Aberlour, double-matured in both “traditional oak” and sherry casks.  I am not sure exactly what “traditional oak” means, but I suspect it means American oak hogsheads.  Aberlour 12 yr. is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose has turpentine, burning wood, sherry, potpourri, vanilla, and orange peels.  The palate brings a soft wood smoke overnote, with good oak, wood shavings, leather, sherry, and vanilla.  The finish is short and sweet with a little Fino sherry and orange peel.

Overall, this is a fine single malt, with a pleasant, inviting sherry influence.  However, there are some notes in this whisky that I find unpleasant, almost as if there was some wood used that was left out in the sun too long.  This is not a bad single malt; its just not my favorite of the range.  My grade: C+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  At the price point, there are other whiskies I would prefer to this one.

Aberlour 12 year-old (Non-Chill Filtered) – This whisky is also aged in two types of casks, but the difference here is the higher bottling proof and the lack of chill-filtration, preserving the oils and fats of the whisky.  It is bottled at 96 proof (48% abv).

The nose is lightly sherried with some nice spice, ginger and lemon zest.  The palate is quite delicious.  The sherry really comes through here, with some bitter dark chocolate, orange peel, ginger, and drying oak.  I find the palate drying in a good way; it makes me want more whisky.  The finish is also quite dry and medium-short.  There are some nice oak notes that linger, as well as some fine strawberries wrapped in dark chocolate (possibly chocolate covered raisins).

This is a definite step up from the standard Aberlour 12, with a lot more body and depth in it.  It’s a hard whisky to find, especially compared with the standard Aberlour 12 year-old, but it’s worth a try if you can grab a bottle.  My grade: B.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  Of the two whiskies, go with the non-chill filtered expression of Aberlour 12.

Aberlour 16 year-old – This whisky is double-matured in first-fill bourbon casks as well as ex-Sherry casks, all to the ripe age of sweet sixteen.  It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose does not yield big sherried notes like I was expecting, but it is still very pleasant, with some heather, malt, brown sugar, red berries, vanilla, and some raisins.  The palate is both malty and woody, but also presents florals, heather, and freshly cut hay.  It is a well-balanced palate, but a bit soft.  The finish is short, with some orange cream and heather honey.

Even after sixteen long years of aging, it’s hard for me to get into this whisky.  It is just a bit too soft, too placid for my tastes.  There are some good flavors present, but they are fleeting.  To me, it tastes younger than sixteen years old.  I would love to see this expression given the non-chill filtration treatment.  My grade: B-.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  Despite the reasonable price on this malt given its age, I don’t think this whisky is living up to its full potential.

Aberlour 18 year-old – This is the senior member of the Aberlour lineup, the oldest whisky in the standard range.  This whisky has steeped in both Bourbon and Oloroso casks for 18 long years, and come out on the other side with glowing qualities.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose is not nearly as sherried as you might expect, like the 16 year-old, but it does smell wonderful, presenting sweet orange cream, vanilla cream, peaches, apricots, potpourri, and plums.  This is a wonderful, full, creamy nose.  The palate is medium bodied, with toffee, vanilla cream, and dark honey.  The finish is medium-long, longer than I expected, with full oak, vanilla, orange cream, and fresh apricots.

On the whole, this is my favorite whisky in the standard range.  The texture in the mouth is creamy and mouth-coating, and the flavors of the aged Aberlour malt are present in full force.  This whisky is complex, deep, but accessible and delicious.  The double-maturation has brought the casks together in nearly perfect harmony in this expression.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $100-125/750ml.  This is the most expensive whisky in the standard range, but it is a brilliant 18 year-old Speyside whisky that will suit quite nicely for any special occasion.

The truth is that the Aberlour A’bunadh is still the top dog for me when it comes to Aberlour.  Unlike the whiskies I reviewed today, the A-Bunadh is aged exclusively in Oloroso casks and bottled at its cask strength.  I have tasted no better Aberlour to this point, including independently bottled single casks.  However, the 18 year-old is one hell of a whisky in its own right, striding through one’s cabinet in a smoking jacket of delicious flavor and character, but it does not come cheap.  For the money, if you can find the 12 year-old in its non-chill filtered version, it’s well worth the purchase.  Most importantly, have a happy and safe holiday season from Bargain Bourbon!  Let it ride!

 

 

 

 

Aberlour A’Bunadh Scotch Review

Aberlour is one of my favorite distilleries in the Speyside region of Scotland because of their reasonably priced single malts and the sherried character of their finished spirit, and I thought it high time to review one of their fine whiskies.  The A’Bunadh (meaning “of the origin” in Gaelic) is an expression that Aberlour launched in 2000 to much critical acclaim.  A’Bunadh is produced in small batches, so it does vary from batch to batch, but there are all matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at cask strength without chill-filtration or coloring.  A’Bunadh never carries an age statement, which allows Aberlour to blend whiskies from all ages to get the deep myriad of sherried flavors found in A’Bunadh.  I have had several batches of this whisky (and they are all very good), but this specific review is of Batch 45, weighing in at a hefty 120.4 proof (60.2% abv).

The A’Bunadh is a dark, ruby hue (almost the color of Bargain Bourbon’s background) coming exclusively from the years in the European oak.  On the nose, the A’Bunadh is dark and spicy, with notes of dates, figs, wet oak, apples, and a bit of smoke.  The palate is really where this whisky takes off, though.  The palate is full-bodied with a lot of dense, deep, dark sweetness.  I taste dark chocolate, marzipan, pecans, mocha, sherry, plantains, and some citrus peels.  The finish is long, dry, and warming, with flavors of old wood, espresso, and Fig Newtons.  With water, this whisky gets a little sweeter, but balances the sweetness with spices like cinnamon and ginger.  It is just as delicious at cask strength as it is with a few drops of water.

Overall, I am a huge fan of Aberlour A’Bundadh, especially this batch.  It takes water beautifully, but is perfectly delicious at cask strength.  If you are seeking out a reasonably priced cask strength single malt, Aberlour A’Bunadh is a great place to start.  It is a complex whisky, well-balanced between sweet and spicy, but it is also a straightforward dram with the Oloroso sherry influence coming through in full force.  Connoisseurs and beginners alike will find something to love with a bottle of A’Bunadh.  My grade: A.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  In the price range, for the quality of this whisky, Aberlour A’Bunadh continues to be one of the best deals around.

The Ideal Value Liquor Cabinet (Autumn Edition)

Well, autumn is upon us, and it is time to start planning your fall liquor cabinet.  Quite frankly, fall is one of my favorite seasons to drink great value whiskey.  As with my summer edition of the ideal liquor cabinet, I think a quality liquor cabinet should have variety, and it should have a few key components.  Building a quality liquor cabinet is like building a house; once you have a foundation down, you can go anywhere.  Of course, like anything pertaining to whiskey, it all depends on your palate.  Since my palate varies depending on the season (and sometimes the day), the possibilities for an ideal liquor cabinet are endless.  For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on an awesome fall liquor cabinet on a budget.

You should have a solid staple.  My summer suggestion for a great staple was Buffalo Trace, and I will stand by that whiskey as the leaves begin to change.  https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/31/buffalo-trace-review/

You should have a solid seasonal whiskey.  Since fall is such a great time to enjoy whiskey, there are many options for my favorite fall seasonal whiskey.  For the money, I think the best option is Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond.  It is spicy and sweet, like good pumpkin pie.  Plus, it is a great value buy.  https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/28/rittenhouse-rye-review/

You should have a mixer.  Not everybody that comes over to your house for dinner will want their whiskey straight up, so it is important to have something in the cabinet that you don’t mind seeing go into an Old-Fashioned, Mint Julep, Manhattan, etc.  For fall, I recommend Old Grand-Dad Bonded.  It is a fine whiskey that I enjoy sipping straight, and it has a nice rye zip for a cocktail.  However, it costs under $20, and it is not the best whiskey in the cabinet, so I don’t mind if somebody throws a splash or two in a cocktail.  https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/17/old-grand-dad-bonded-review/

If I had a little money left over, I would probably go for a couple of my favorite bottles of whiskey that fit the season well.  These are the ones that come out on special occasions and will last me into December.  If I were me (with a little extra dough), I would get a bottle of Aberlour A’Bunadh and a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  I have yet to review either one of these whiskys, but they are both fantastic Scotches around $60 a bottle.  The Aberlour is sweet, full, lightly floral, and oaky.  The Laphroaig Quarter Cask is a lot like the 10 yr. (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/25/laphroaig-10-year-review/), but the former has more complexity, more balance, and a bigger influence from the cask.  Don’t worry, though, it still has monstrous helpings of peat and smoke.  As my rooomate, Chris Broadwell, says “If you can’t go camping this fall, drink Laphroaig.”

Those are my thoughts on the ideal autumn liquor cabinet.  What whiskeys did I leave out?  Which ones did I get right?  What does your autumn liquor cabinet look like?