Aberlour a'bunadh is a unique experience among Scotches . . . cask strength and intensely sherried, rich, deep and complex. There are many wonderful Scotches out there, but this one is something truly special, and in a category of its own.
Packaged in a slightly squat, thick-necked bottle, its color is a deep ruby red in the bottle, and a rich mahogany in the glass.
Depending on presentation, the Aberlour's nose ranges from caramel and apple, to sherry and almonds, to lightly floral . . . in a nosing glass, however, be prepared to let it "breathe" a long time; that 121.2 proof cask strength is no joke and will singe your nostril hairs but good!
Sipped straight, it will make your lips tingle and set your mouth aflame before opening into a rich melange of toffee, smoke, and oak flavors, with an incredibly long sherry finish with hints of licorice and spice.
Mouthfeel is smooth and buttery on the tongue, with spice notes occurring along the sides of the tongue and smoke flavors mostly hitting the back of the throat.
The high proof accommodates a little spring water or a few rocks extremely well, without surrendering complexity or flavor.
As you can see from the images, I tried the full range of tasting experiences, from "wee dram" to Scotch & soda, and the Aberlour a'bunadh was, simply put, astonishing and superb in all of them. Even the most dilute, the Scotch & soda, didn't feel like a sacrilege or a waste . . . in fact, the high proof and intense flavors mean that the first few sips taste like straight Scotch. A wonderful straight Scotch, at that.
I like this one best on the rocks, with just a splash to dilute the proof slightly, but if you're patient enough to let it breathe awhile, it's a fantastic experience neat.
At $68, Aberlour a'bunadh is more expensive than a lot of single malts, but less so than than many other special bottlings, and considered on a proof basis---since most will choose to dilute it, it takes less and lasts longer---works out to be quite competitive.
Highly recommended. If you like sherried Speysides, this one will be a revelation.