Aberlour 13yo 1989/2003 “Warehouse No 1” (58.7%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #13330)

Yes, it’s still not over. Just like the 2003 Bourbon Cask Aberlour, I have also a Sherried one. The 1995 16yo Sherry was impressive, let’s see how this 1989 13yo compares…

Aberlour 13yo 1989/2003 Warehouse No 1 (58.7%, OB, Single Cask Selection, Sherry Cask #13330)Color: Mahogany.

Nose: Wow! This is more like it. This smells of proper Sherry cask. From proper European oak. Whisky from the old days. Wonderful wood and dry leafy quality. warm milk chocolate, no raisins. The Sherry is extremely well-integrated and immediately make the right connections in my mind. Wonderful (there is that word again!). Hints of tar and black coal. Remember this from the dark 1971 Scott’s Longmorns? Hints of warm machine oil. Warm steam locomotive, but not as strong as the aforementioned Longmorns. Dry and dusty wood. Old wood, just stripped of 50 years of paint. Wonderful dry fruit. Black berries and such. I love a Sherry profile like this. I just hope it tastes just as good…

Taste: Wow, it starts with wood and the high ABV. Careful. Extremely smooth. Here, there are some raisins put in the chocolate mix. Earwax and nice powdery wood. Cough syrup and wonderfully deep. Thick and cloying. A tad sweeter than the nose lead me to believe. Lacks the tar and black coal from the nose. In itself that’s a shame, but the overall taste and the sheer balance make up for it. This cask had much to give, that they were right to bottle it after 13 years. It would have been over the top with wood if would have aged a few years longer. Stellar aftertaste as well. Near perfect stuff.

I just finished my bottle of a heavily Sherried 1989 Mortlach, but Aberlour also had something going for them in 1989. Tasted blind I might have gone with a Japanese Whisky. I wish I visited Aberlour Distillery in 2003…

Although the Bourbon Aberlour’s are nothing to scoff at, the Sherries are the way to go. Aberlour and Sherry are a made for each other. This 13yo Aberlour is better than all the A’bunadh’s I’ve ever tasted.

Points: 93

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 “Warehouse No 1” (57%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #4934)

That’s not all! There is more. I hope you didn’t think I would have only hand-filled Aberlours from ex-Bourbon casks now didn’t you? This is a case of saving the best for last, at least so I hope. Experience showed me that the Aberlour spirit fares well in Sherry casks, and often something wonderful emerges. Just take a look at one of the best NAS bottlings in the Marketplace: The Aberlour A’bunadh. Up ’till now I reviewed two batches on Master Quill: #13 and #33 and calling both pretty good would be an understatement. Here we have a sort of A’bunadh only older and coming from a single cask. So who knows, maybe it’s even better!

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 Warehouse No 1 (57%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Sherry Cask #4934)Color: Warm and dark orange brown.

Nose: Wonderfully sherried. Toffee and cherries. Slightly tarry and very reminiscent of A’bunadh, so I would go with Oloroso Sherry for this one. Nice soft oak. Slightly burnt caramel and the whole comes across with nice toffee notes, without its sweetness though. Well balanced and definitely older than A’bunadh. With some air more rubbery notes appear and more dry wood. Very dusty actually. Tiny hint of cola sweetness and even a hint of florality? Where A’bunadh sometimes can smell a bit harsh, this oozes softness. Excellent stuff.

Taste: Yes more A’bunadh. Starts with a high note of acidity, that quickly moves into cherries and a tarry woody depth. Nice liquid toffee temporary sweetness. Mocha and cream. Latte Macchiato (with a wee bit too much milk). Sticky toffee pudding. Schwarzwalder kirsch trifle, all again without their usual sweetness. Dusty. Extremely drinkable. Lovely.

Even though its twice the age of A’bunadh, it’s very similar in its initial profile. Forgetting the smoothness and softness brought to this Whisky by ageing, you can see this as a single cask A’bunadh. Both share a lot. Having said that, and more or less claiming this is (easily) recognizable as an A’bunadh, I have to say that it also reminds me a lot of the 1996 Ultimate (and Signatory) Longmorns. Earlier I reviewed three of those: cask 72315, cask #72319 and cask #105091.

Points: 89

Aberlour 12yo 1990/2003 “Warehouse No 1” (58.8%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Bourbon Cask #11552)

Time to follow up the Bourbon casked Aberlour from Warehouse No 1 with another one! This one is a few years younger and bottled more than ten years ago. Right off the bat the colour does seem quite light for something that is from a first fill Bourbon cask. I think it will be quite interesting to compare the two, so without further ado…

Aberlour 12yo 1990/2003 Warehouse No 1 (58.8%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Bourbon Cask #11552)Color: Light gold, white wine.

Nose: Typically ex Bourbon cask. If you don’t know it by now, you’ll never will. High alcohol, with vanilla. Clean wood and a bit sweet smelling. Toffee. Creamy and dusty. Fresh with a hint of lemon. Mildly spicy, but in a sticky kind of way. I know it does sound a bit strange. Wet dirt and dust. Big in its typical “Bourbon-ness” (the aroma combined with the high ABV.), but the rest is all details, meaning the rest are all mere hints. Fresh air. The wood itself releases quite some nice aroma’s. Slightly sugary wet paper even. Sometimes even whiffs of something meaty can be picked up. Stuff like this may all look alike, and in a way they are. But if you give it some time and attention, yes you have to work for it, the details will show, and sometimes you’ll be rewarded when it strikes a chord with you, like this one almost does with me.

Taste: Sweet, waxy, and nutty. Almonds. Quite hot, due to the high ABV, but the aroma is, again, quite big, so the aroma and the initial sweetness overpower the alcohol and that is quite a feat. Fatty butter, and mixed with that, a dry and leafy quality. Pencil shavings. It breaks down a bit towards the finish, where some bitterness comes to the front and an acidic note decides it doesn’t want to be part of this Whisky anymore. The finish itself is shorter than expected. The finish is gone, when the strength is still making its way down and warming you.

Compared to the 16yo I reviewed last, this one is more about the wood and the vanilla, and creamy toffee. This lack the fruit the more recent 16 yo has. So there is a difference. This 12yo is cleaner and has a more typical nose for a Whisky coming from a Bourbon cask. The 16yo in comparison is way more funky and fruitier and tastewise less balanced and softer. It also has a much longer finish. Who said all ex-Bourbon cask whiskies are alike, since these two alone are already quite different, and I’m not only focussing on the details. Same score though.

Points: 85

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 “Warehouse No 1” (52.2%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Bourbon Cask #8959)

Aberlour was one of the first Single Malts I’ve ever tried. Back in 2000 or 2001 I got the 10yo for my birthday (thanks Arthur!). Nice stuff. Especially for the novice I was back then, and maybe still am, since there remains an awful lot to learn. For me Aberlour was always more about the Sherried Whiskies than the ones aged in Bourbon barrels or hogsheads. The character of the Aberlour distillate is definitely easier to “get” when trying Aberlours from (refill) Bourbon casks, but this hand filled Aberlour from first fill bourbon will do just nicely too. However, I’ve never came across a Bourbon cask aged Aberlour that knocked me off my feet. Maybe this is the one, since it came directly off the distillery. Distilleries hold the best for themselves don’t they?

Aberlour 16yo 1995/2012 "Warehouse No 1" (52.2%, OB, Single Cask Selection, First Fill Bourbon Cask #8959)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Floral and leafy vanilla powder with some funky organics going on. Extremely fresh and fruity. Canned concentrated fresh air. Combinations of pineapple, dried peaches, peaches in light syrup. Sweet white grapes and cherry liqueur bon-bon. Very aromatic and dusty as well. You don’t get a lot of sweet and dusty, but here it is an evolution going on in the glass. It starts sweeter than it ends. It’s fresh and lively and I’m actually surprised this is already 16 years old. I expected a darker Whisky coming from a first fill Bourbon cask. Fresh and minty with small hints of lime. It has everything you can have from an ex Bourbon cask. Florality, vanilla and lots of fruit. In the background typical wet oak and slightly meaty. Sawdust and paper, and sometimes I smell the Bourbon itself. Reminds me a lot of the 1994 Golden Cask expression I reviewed earlier.

Taste: Soft and spicy and quite sweet right from the start. Almonds and very nice creamy vanilla and fruit, peach it is again. Wow, great Bourbon cask. A lot of the elements fall in its place. For me Whiskies with this profile need to be a bit sweeter (especially when the whole lacks a bit of complexity). Creamy toffee and fine powdered sawdust. Vanilla and fudge. Well you get the picture don’t you? Soft wet wood, like snapping off a branch. Hints of latex paint and sweet wood (with a walnut skin, bitter edge to it).

I like the sweetness and the softness of this Malt. Dry, cask strength Bourbon cask Malts can be quite sharp and hot. For instance. The 1997 Tomatin that was aged in a Refill Bourbon barrel is less sweet, and therefore drier but also a bit hotter and harsher. Again a decent Bourbon Aberlour, as I’ve come to expect by now

Points: 85

Aberlour 16yo (43%, OB, Double Cask Matured, Circa 2003)

Here is another oldie from the archives. This time another big well-known brand with one of their succesful numbers. This bottling still exists, although it went through a few newly designed labels. As far as I know this was the first edition of this particular bottling. Double cask matured. Slap Double Wood on the label and you have a law-suit on your hands, but essentially it’s the same thing. Bourbon cask matured Single Malt Whisky with a finish in Sherry casks. Aberlour are well-known for heavy usage of Oloroso Sherry casks, but we already know from the 1988 bottling, that other Sherry casks are also used, and since this isn’t a highly priced expression I do suspect other than Oloroso casks may have been used with this one too. And why not?

Aberlour 16yo (43%, OB, Double Cask Matured, Circa 2003)Color: Copper gold

Nose: Sweet Sherry, and vanilla, which would already suggest maturation in Sherry and American oak casks. Sweet and slightly winey. Some hints of powder and dust and hardly any (tannic) wood, so definitely longer maturation in American oak than European oak. Just smell those vanilla and pudding notes. After a while more floral notes emerge. I’m not very good with flowers so I can’t tell you which flowers yet, but believe me it is floral right now. Together with the floral bit, elegant polished wood comes to the fore with some bad breath too. The Sherry part is getting less and less pronounced, so most definitely a finished Whisky all right.

Taste:  Sweet and again a combination of vanilla, pudding and a more winey note than a typical Oloroso Sherry note. Sweet and simple would sum this up just nicely. Creamy with a hint of bitter plain white oak, so at least the sweet vanilla body is given some backbone with wood. Slightly cardboardy finish as well as waxed milk chocolate. You know the shiny stuff. Leaving this in the glass even longer, a more candied fruit note emerges. Dried apricots and some honeyed almonds. It picks up more of a bite too. Not a very complex malt yet very likeable. Highly drinkable, but it wouldn’t be my first pick for a daily drinker, since it lacks some complexity and the finish seems to be not as well-integrated as should. Having said that, giving this some air to let it settle some more, does do wonders for this Malt and adds some nutty bitterness too.

In effect this does remind me of Bourbon matured Aberlours I’ve tasted in the past, but also the 1988 I reviewed earlier. When I come to think of it, it does also remind me a bit of Highland Park 12yo. Quite good, but also quite simple with a less than perfect finish. I haven’t tried them yet, but I expect later batches of this Whisky to be better in this respect, with hopefully more Oloroso casks used for finishing, but also a slightly longer finish in those casks will help it along as well.

Points: 85

Aberlour ‘A’bunadh’ (59.8%, OB, Batch No. 13, 2005)

By now, batch no. 50 is the latest A’Bunadh released and when you are reading this, the number will be even higher. Saying that the A’Bunadh is a pretty popular bottling. Whisky always was intended to age in Oloroso Sherry butts. Today however, in general, there seem to be more Sherry butts available than the consumption of Sherry seems to warrant. Saying? There are some nice NAS Sherried Whiskies around, Glendronach, Benromach, The new Tomatin, but none of those are so heavy as this powerhouse from Aberlour. On average around 4 batches of A’Bunadh are released every year. Furthermore what makes A’Bunadh exiting, from my anoraks point of view, is the batch variation. Most batches are great and definitely worth the money. Sometimes something less interesting pops up like the notorious batch no. 40 from 2012. A few others from the 40’s range, were slightly less than perfect. I hope that’s not a trend. To be sure not to encounter another dud, let’s try an older version of A’Bunadh, with this lucky batch no. 13.

Aberlour ‘A’bunadh’ (59.8%, OB, Batch No. 13, 2005)Color: Copper gold. Not extremely dark.

Nose: Creamy raisins and vanilla. Creamy with a little backbone provided by toasted oak and maybe from the Sherry. Some more wood, typical oak, and some dust. A lot friendlier than I remember batch no. 33 was. pencil shavings. This is a tale about wood, just without the rawness of batch no. 33 (which actually came from the Sherry, not the wood). Creamy, raisiny and sweetish. With wood. That’s it. Not a lot of complexity, but also lacking some red fruits, Oloroso butts can give off. Nevertheless a very nice smelling dram.

Taste: Chocolate, Ferrero Rocher cherries, than wood, fresh oak and pencil shavings (cedar) and some hints of coal. Quite hot (not raw) when sliding down my throat. A classic combination of aroma’s from soft Oloroso. (It lacks the meatiness batch no. 33 had). Nice hints of mocha and whipped cream. Tiny hint of bitterness gives the finish some oomph.

I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I understand this takes water very well. That is an indication of a high quality cask (and Sherry it held), since more recent bottlings can get very hot, very hot indeed when water is added.

OK, why not. With water the whole softens up a bit, and brings the aroma’s closer together. The wood seems to stick out a bit more, which isn’t a problem. It momentarily also enhances the fruity part, and the bitterness of the finish. Toffee, caramel and oak.

Points: 88

Aberlour 15yo 1988/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL REF 875, 306 bottles)

After all that recent stuff, today it’s time for an oldie from Douglas Laing. Here we have an Aberlour that was already bottled in 2003. Almost all Aberlours that find their way into the realm of independent bottlers seem to come from Bourbon casks or sometimes unusual, or (atypical for Aberlour), Sherry casks. Looking at the color, the amount of bottles drawn from the cask (at 50% ABV), I’m guessing this will be not too far from another independent Aberlour I reviewed earlier.

Aberlour 15yo 1988/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, DL REF 875, 306 bottles)Color: Sparkling light gold.

Nose: Fresh. Fruity, papaya and some passion fruit, with vanilla. Seems to me this came from a Bourbon Hogshead. Very clean and winey, but also some cold and fresh real butter. Some oak and residual sugar. Quite some aroma, since this leaps right out off the glass. Well balanced, but not very complex. Dusty. Low on spiciness, which is typical American oak.

Taste: Sweet, spicy and definitely some oak now. Quite hot. Somewhat fruity and sweet with typical vanilla and pudding aroma’s, and also some toffee and caramel. A desert in itself. Just like the nose, this is aromatic but not very complex. Medium length finish.

Totally anonymous typical ex-Bourbon casked Whisky. Lots of these Whiskies make a good dram and the beauty lies in the details. Just have a look at some bottles from independent bottles who get a chance to select their casks and find that beauty (like The Whisky Mercenary). With this example however, the Whisky is unmistakable good yet anonymous. This could have been anything. Lots of bottles like this were released by the bigger independent bottlers like Douglas Laing and especially Cadenhead’s, who for a while seemed to have some kind of monopoly on Whiskies from refill Bourbon casks. So not bad, but anonymous.

Compared to the Golden Cask Aberlour I mentioned above, I think the Golden Cask version had slightly more to say and was also slightly more complex. This Douglas Laing version was sweeter and therefore more easily accessible and likable.

Points: 84