Review: Aberlour's A’bunadh Alba Is a Scotch for Bourbon Fans
It's all about the wood
What we’re drinking: Aberlour Single Malt Scotch A’bunadh Alba. It’s pronounced ah-BOO-nah, since you were going to ask (and it means “the original” in Gaelic).
Where it’s from: Aberlour is a long-running Speyside single malt (the distillery formed in 1879) that usually lets its hooch double rest in Spanish sherry and American Oak casks for a minimum of 12 years. Interestingly, the Alba release does not have an age statement (though that isn’t a first for the distillery) and also lacks a sherry component. It’s only matured in bourbon oak.
Why we’re drinking this: I had a chance to drink some Aberlour last week with Master Distiller Graeme Cruickshank over Zoom. He had this to say about Alba: “We always knew our whisky only matured in American oak really stood up for itself. We offered small bottlings of that at the distillery, and it was a quick seller, so we decided to experiment some more.”
That’s good news to my ears, since I tend to prefer no-age statement Scotch, as they’re more complex and creative. Sherry can also be a bit much; I don’t drink it on its own, so I’m typically fine with any whisky that ignores the ever-growing trend.
How it tastes: The original A’bundah release had a dark and rich amber color, an aroma of red apples, caramel and spiced oranges, and flavors of dark chocolate, cherries, ginger and dried fruits. And the sherry influence was strong.
As for Alba? It’s a spicy one, and definitely shows off its cask strength — liked it, but loved it more with a drop or two of water. It’s much lighter in appearance than the original A’bundah, and the wood is front and center here, both on the nose and palate. It was sweet with a lot of orchard fruits (apples, pears, peaches), plus plenty of vanilla influence from the oak. Without the sherry, the other flavors really shone through.
As a bourbon fan, it warmed my heart.
Fun fact: Alba is relatively new — it was released last fall — and also landed at #5 on Whisky Advocate’s Best of list for 2019.
Where you can get it: You can find Alba for about $90-$110 if you poke around the interwebs — Wine.com is a good option if your local liquor store doesn’t carry it.