For a number of years, enthusiasts clamoured for Speyside’s Aberlour to release some whisky without the distillery’s usual overlay of sherry. Not that the sherry was unwanted – far from it – just that it’s always interesting to try a more ‘naked’ style of spirit occasionally. At the time, the only methods to sample ex-bourbon Aberlour were either at the distillery itself where an ex-bourbon matured ‘hand-fill’ was offered alongside a sherried sibling – or via indy bottlers. Then, back in 2019, and following many raised eyebrows over the steep price hike of A’bunadh (which was sufficiently vertical to instantly take it out of all supermarkets) came A’bunadh Alba.
And here it was – the ex-bourbon matured Aberlour that many of us had been waited for. But whilst Alba was initially released as a US exclusive, it seems to have stayed entirely Stateside over the two years since. Why? Don’t know.
Reviews of Alba seem pretty decent and a few of my US-based malt friends have remarked that they’ve found it enjoyable. Perhaps it’s a market perception based around the sweetness derived from ex-bourbon casks being best suited to US palates? Perhaps it’s an inventory issue – the distillery does predominantly fill into sherry, so maybe there’s just not enough ex-bourbon for a worldwide release. Or maybe here in the UK, Pernod thinks we’re all just drinking quite enough supermarket bought Aberlour 12 year old already, thank you very much.
Regardless, those outside of the US are where we’ve always been – turning to indy bottlers to help us sample ex-bourbon Aberlour. Fortunately, they’re not all that difficult to come by…..and the Boutique-y 2021 Advent calendar has got a nice little one for us today.
Door 6 offers up Aberlour 9 year old Batch 7. Originally released back in 2018, this run of 3421 bottles was delivered at 49.6%. I say “was” – the release is now well sold out – though Batch 9 is only 0.1% different in ABV and is still available from Master of Malt for £74.95.
Once you’re done here, both Sorren at OCD Whisky and Brian at Brian's Malt Musings and undertaking the 24 days of Boutique-y this year - so go check them out for some alternative views.
Nose: Crunchy green apples and lemon rind alongside vanilla buttercream, dark-amber honey and tablet. Running throughout – a natural sense of the raw ingredients with field-fresh barley together with residual grassiness. The addition of water offers a different complexion – apricots served with cream cheese together with choux buns.
Taste: Bright apple and particularly pear orchards on the arrival – smothered in gooey honey. Milk chocolate buttons develop alongside a tinge of Fruit Salad chew tropicalness whilst the underlying barley provides a cereal note tempered by a touch of boot polish and peppery oak. Dilution retains the fruity vibrancy whilst adding sweet melon and tarter gooseberry into the mix. Everything is still rather balanced.
Finish: Medium with tinned, syrupy orchard fruits (pear ethyl acetate) and fading pepper.
Boutique-y’s Aberlour Batch 7 is a decent little thing. Whilst the profile never broadens outside of the confines of either its age or cask style, the balance here (particularly on the palate) is notable – both neat and reduced. Whilst Aberlour’s spirit most certainly marries wonderfully with oloroso, ex-bourbon expressions such as this demonstrate that this attribute is underpinned through the inherently quality of the distillate. And in terms of the wider exploration of whisky – sampling outside of typical cask types is a sure-fire way to start to home in on true distillery character.