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Most cult whiskies encompass entire distilleries, either alive (Ardbeg, Macallan) or, usually, dead (Port Ellen, Pappy Van Winkle, Brora, Rosebank, etc). But Aberlour A'bunadh is perhaps the only one whose cult status does not extend to other whiskies from their distillery (if I'm wrong, let me know!)
A'bunadh ("the original" in Gaelic) is a regular release (not sure if it's annual or not), numbered by batches, that is full matured in Oloroso sherry butts, cask strength, non-coloured and non-chill filtered. It is meant to replicate (to some extent) how the malt would have tasted in the 19th century (whether that is true or not, we shall never know). This bottle comes from batch #47.
The colour is a deep reddish copper. On the nose there is a lot of rum-raisin, except of course you know it's not rum (still kinda smells like it, though!) Deep, rich sherry influence. Nutmeg, allspice, blood orange. Candle wax. Approaching damp moss (almost vegetal but not quite) - water brings that element out with some herbal notes.
On the palate, surprisingly light-bodied in the mouth, with more rich sherry notes, dark chocolate, dates, and more blood orange. Very, very oaky. Hold it in your mouth and it becomes fuller bodied, almost creamy. Huge sherry (duh). Fruitier and spicier in the mouth with water - and even creamier.
The finish is waxy, nutty (macadamia) with even more dark chocolate. Balsamic, and then slightly spicy at the end. I quite enjoy this but it is too sherried for me to make this a regular dram. Also, this is the first A'bunadh I've ever reviewed (the only other one I've ever had was a dram of Batch #38 during a dinner at the Aberlour distillery, designed by whisky chef Martine Nouet, with some coffee and chocolates). I know people will kill and die for A'bunadh (at least one connosr member is positively obsessed with it), but this doesn't send me into paroxysms of ecstasy. But it is an interesting and complex malt.