I think it's fair to say, we all remember those significant drams. Ones that stick a big flag in your pallet and say "here's where it happened, this is ground zero", for the Sherry Bomb it was this batch, of this whisky. It blew me away.
As soon as you poor it you know things are not normal compared to a standard 40% abv bottling. The liquid has different characteristics in the glass. The legs are far more apparent and then there's the smell, the increased volatility of the spirit propels the molecules out of the glass far quicker. You notice that the thing is radiating smells. It's something you begin to recognise the more cask strength whiskies you drink. In the world of perfumery this is called silage, the unaided projection of the smell, the trailing scent released into the air like a wake from a boat, this Aberlour made unmistakeable waves.
On the nose (as I came to learn) it's a classic sherry bomb, vast quantities of wood and sherry and dried, dark baking fruits and spices overwhelm the nose. The volume of smells is huge all carried along on a massive wave of rich, chocolaty alcohol. There's a rich, dark cakey vanilla swirling in the mix too along will bitter cocoa powder and milk chocolate. It's not subtle by any stretch of the imagination but there are other smells oceanarium your nose recovers from the initial assault. There's also a hint of sulphur, similar but less strong to the whiff you get from Highland Park's Dark Origins. Like AC/DC playing bottles of sherry up your nose.
In the mouth it is an animal. Obviously I've experienced many things or similar of greater intensity since, but it's fair to say the first time you have something like this it leaves an impression, like a meteor strike. The 60% abv is like a sledgehammer delivering the flavours. Sherry, wood, baking spice, cocoa and more sherry, rain down initially in unrelenting fashion. It's hard at first to get your head round the flavours, almost like standing too near to a painting and not being able to see the whole picture. However, once the palate recovers and the grip of the alcohol releases the tongue, things become clearer. There's orange oils here, all sorts of chocolates (milk and bitter) and notes of coffee and tiramisu, old wooden furniture, old wood polish, leather, walnuts and dark fruit cake, sponge fingers and molasses. It's a great combination, like a monstrously powerful boozer hug.
The finish is lengthy, there's just some much to deal with that it takes its time to fully leave the room. Like the silage on the nose as so the flavours on the palate. Warm, lingering, deep and sonorous. Ok, so looking back I can say it lacks finesse but for what poetic delicacies it doesn't have it has other things in spades. If you want a big, hammer blow of sherry, if you want liquid Christmas cakes and a boozy delivery then the Aberlour A'bunadh is your man. I'm a huge fan of this whisky.
Looking back, like with a lot of whisky these days, is a slightly bitter pill to swallow. The Aberlour A'bunadh Batch 44 when I first bought it cost me a staggering £30 from Waitrose. Let that sink in - £30 in 2012. 5 years later and the same product, in the same bottles, in the same packaging tube, at the same ABV is being sold by parent company Pernod Richard, for an eye-wateringly, wallet-gouging £80-£90! It's a real shame.
I'll always have a soft spot for this whisky and always recommend it as one of those whiskies you have to try before you die but these days only when its on offer of if you can pick it up for a sensible price on the auction sites.