Dram Review: Aberlour Batch 2 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Thanks to the chaps at Master of Malt for sending me a sample of this to review. It’s the second Aberlour from the range of “That Boutique-y whiskies”. These are whiskies from a single distillery blended by the chaps at Master of Malt and given a boutique style presentation with 50cl bottles and a uniquely designed label.

The Aberlour label contains a picture of the only bar in Aberlour, The Mash Tun. As regular readers will know I’ve just returned from a full week in Aberlour and Mrs Dramstats and I spent 4 nights in the Mash Tun having a good time (I’ll soon be posting a review of the place). Looking at this bottle does put me in mind of Aberlour and of that holiday and so I think the label does its job here.

Here are the dramstats:

AberlourTBWC

  • Price £50.95 only from here
  • ABV 51.2%
  • 50cl

Nose: Custardy vanilla then lovely clean sherry notes with juicy raisins, sultana, muscavado sugar and the classic Aberlour red dessert apple note. This is exactly how I wish a’bunadh could be like again. Rich christmas pudding. The addition of water takes it up another notch with the fruit getting juicier and cinnamon spices coming through and the whole nose becoming sweeter.

Palate: It’s a’bunadh like it used to be, yet even better! An explosion of dark and dried fruit with red apple, cherry, blackcurrant and christmas pudding. There is also a sense of sticky toffee pudding note. In fact this would be the perfect accompaniment to a sticky toffee pudding.

Finish: Some spicy oak muscles in on the fruit and both vye for position, each taking its turn in the lead as the mouth begins to dry leaving a memory of good christmas pudding.

Verdict: I think the general consensus with the whisky bloggers I know is that Aberlour a’bunadh has gone down hill since the early batches. I reviewed batch 42 here and I had a fair few drams of the latest batch 44 in the Mash tun whilst in Aberlour 7 days ago and I agree. The old batches were excellent but, my opinion is that the chaps at Master of Malt have taken it to the next level. This is not a’bunadh, it is a Master of Malt creation. However, it is so evocative of the style and yet so improved it’s almost as if they are saying: “this is how we would do A’bunadh”. It’s easily the best Aberlour I’ve had. The sherry is clean, the nose is delightfully complex and yet unmistakably Aberlour. Yes you get a smaller bottle but I would buy this over any a’bunadh any day. Because of holiday memories, the label only makes me want a bottle more.

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Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 23

One more window to open!

Day 23 is Aberlour 18. I have tried this once before, as the last dram of a 7 dram tasting at the distillery and, to be honest, it had been blown away by 3 cask strength expressions and I struggled with it. So, here is another opportunity and here are the dramstats:

aberlour18

  • ABV 43%
  • Age 18
  • Price £54

Nose: Red apples, sherbet, vanilla and milk chocolate raisins.

Palate: Sweet with lots of dessert apple and vanilla sugar. Delicious!

Finish: Lots of creamy toffee sauce and sweet apples. There is a hint of chocolate raisins right at the end that is really excellent.

Verdict: Probably the most rounded and tasty Aberlour I’ve had the pleasure to sample. I think if this were around £45 I’d buy a bottle, but it’s a little on the pricey side. Still, what’s £9 between friends?

The 24th Dram from the Advent Calendar was Master of Malt, 50 year old speyside whisky. I will save this for the right mood and post a review later in the year.

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 21

Number 21 sees Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 42. Excellent stuff!

I had a bottle of batch 18 and loved the huge burnt christmas cake notes, so needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing how this famous bargain dram has evolved.

Here are the dramstats:

aberlourabunadh

 

  • ABV 60.3%
  • Price £40

Nose: Huge alcohol burn and uh oh, that unpleasant “something” from my recent review of highland park 12 is there. It’s clearly fruity but this baby needs water. Once the water is added there is sherry soaked dried fruit and pepper. The characteristic Aberlour red apples, then raisins and sultanas all seem to be there. But this harsh unpleasant something is not going away with dilution. I’m starting to think this is sulphur 😦

Palate: Without water it’s sweet, fruity, juicy, then burns! Seems quite young. Not really one for drinking neat for me. With water, sweet sherry fruit and spicy with crackling pepper, juicy apples and black grape. Almost a fruit punch quality to this.

Finish: Peppery then drying. With water much more sweet christmas cake and a real burst of dried fruit. It takes a lot of water and still delivers that burst on the finish, with red gooseberries. The fruit keeps coming!

Verdict: Thank goodness this dram redeemed itself on the palate. Lots of fruit and really exciting. I still don’t know if the nose burn is sulphur or not, but it doesn’t go away with water and it ruins the nose for me. For that reason I wouldn’t buy this batch and that’s a pity. I’ve rented a cottage in Aberlour for a week in Feb and had planned on coming back with a drop of A’bunadh. These things vary quite a lot from batch to batch, so I’ll be trying new batches and waiting for one that ticks the boxes, because when it does, it’s a real cracker!

 

Aberlour 16 Bourbon cask

Back in March 2011, Mrs dramstats and I did the Aberlour distillery tour. Back then, this tour had just won the whisky magazine award for best whisky visitor attraction and it didn’t disappoint. The sort of detailed tour that involved tasting the wash (please all distilleries start offering this!), and really went the extra mile.

The tour culminated in one of the warehouses with a very generous tasting session. Aberlour 10, 12, 16, 18, Single cask bourbon 16, single cask sherry 16. The last two were from casks that you could bottle your own whisky from (for a mere £65) right there at the distillery.

So after 4 drams and having really enjoyed the tour I wanted to bottle my own, and the choice was between 16 year old bourbon and 16 year old sherry. I liked the bourbon. “Huge red apple like the 10 year old on speed” I said at the time.

I enjoyed filling the bottle from the cask, putting the stopper and seal on, writing the labels and sticking them on, and putting it in the box. As far as I was concerned, total bargain. But how did the whisky inside hold up to review 2 years down the road? Here are the dramstats

 

  • Price £65
  • ABV 60.3%
  • Age 16
  • Cask type: first fill Bourbon

Nose: Red apples, vanilla, touch of mens aftershave, pear drops, hint of nail varnish remover. Needs water. Boiled sweets. Very “bourbony”.

Palate: Pepper, red apples, vanilla and icing sugar.

Finish: Oaky and peppery before long vanilla cream.

Verdict: This is not the greatest whisky I’ve spent £65 on. I wouldn’t buy it from a shop. However, the experience of filling the cask at the time was definitely worth the money. If you are in Speyside the Aberlour tour is well worth it. Really excellent experience and a cool little distillery.