I was perusing my liquor cabinet and realized I have way too many heels sitting around, and of whiskies I haven't even reviewed yet. Apparently, I'm buying bottles, enjoying them over time (this one has been open for at least a year, and it's the very last dram left) and then desperately hanging onto that final drop....and realizing I haven't written it up yet. Pathetic....but it's a good problem to have. So I'm going to try to get through them over the next few reviews (which I have to be more on top of).
This is A'Bunadh Batch No. 56. For those not in the know, this is Aberlour's periodic release of a cask-strength, non-coloured, non-chill-filtered expression, matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks. Each batch is different and is of course bottled at different ABVs (this one being particularly high at 61.2%)
The colour is a dark and slightly cloudy copper (I suspect it's a bit cloudy as my house is a bit chilly!) On the nose I am immediately reminded of a rum-soaked, raisin-filled Christmas cake, with tobacco leaves, thawed frozen raspberries and bruised mint. As you would expect, massive Oloroso. Smoked paprika. Over-steeped chai tea. A hint of poached pears - yes, there are some subtle notes here. A drop of water brings out furniture polish and wood smoke. About what you would expect from A'Bunadh.
On the palate there are more raspberries, with big baking spices (think Angostura bitters), baked apples, old leather and cayenne pepper. Obviously huge sherry notes. Surprisingly thin mouthfeel, but the oak tannins pull nicely. Water smooths things out a little.
The finish is medium length with bitter dark chocolate and red liquorice. I haven't had this expression in a while, so it's hard for me to say whether or not this is one of the best ones I've had; but it's delicious, though not as creamy or as rich as I would prefer. Despite the high strength, it actually doesn't need water to be easily drinkable. Tasting it next to Batch 39 (59.8% ABV), though, it doesn't really compare. The 39 is richer, more luxurious (and seems to have more alcohol, even though it really doesn't) and has more of those leather and oak notes that send it over the top (I scored it a 94). Still, you can rarely go wrong with this expression.