“I don’t drink much whisky, but when I do, I drink A’bunadh.” Sure, this is a bad paraphrase of an Aberlour review read in the spirits section of the local book store. But Jonathan Goldsmith riding a bull in Spain is exactly the sort of passionate image evoked by a dram of this marvelous spirit. Or maybe a better connection can be made to Dmitri Karamazov. There really is nothing else quite like it in the world of scotch whisky; nothing that combines the sensual, exotic deluge of sherry on the senses with a gentlemanly sense of breed that comforts the soul. In the review, the author is mentioning how he had a customer who wouldn’t drink whisky but she happily enjoyed drinking A’bunadh. What she discovered is that the sweetness pulls you in, and then the complexity keeps you coming back.
The Gaelic name of this bottle is in lock step with many of the tenets we hold dear here at Aspiring Gentleman. It means “origin,” referring to the creation of the brand following the discovery of an old bottle during a distillery renovation. The bottle, made in 1898, was distinct enough that it was sent in for analysis with the intention of recreating the flavours of the old bottle. It is retrospective, attempting to revive the lost traditions of our forefathers. Made purely from cask strenth Oloroso sherry butt aged whisky, ranging in age from 5 to 25 years, several batches of A’bunadh are released annually, and each one gets a corresponding batch number. Every batch has sweetness and complexity, but they are all unique in their execution.
Batch #28, 59.7%: I was pushed to buy this specific batch when reading a review by Jim Murray that described it as “X-rated malt for adults.” It was the author’s slightly less hyperbolic way of describing the massive mouthfilling flavours I waxed poetically about earlier. It’s hard to argue with this assessment. I always think of dried fruits and cream, the maraschino cherry on a caramel sundae, and the spice store at a foreign market when I smell this batch. It’s like opening some sort of strange alcoholic candy syrup. The flavours rush out to every corner of your mouth with fruit cake bitterness and creme brulee crunch, and then then quite suddenly the alcohol rushes in to cleanse everything away in an instant. The finish then kind of builds up from that point, where you get a sort of retrohale from the intensity of aromas that are buried beneath all of the substance. This is undoubtedly quite an exhausting drink, and as much as I love it sometimes I reach past it on the shelf knowing I just don’t have nearly enough attention or energy to give it. Those are the nights for PG, or PG-13.