...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Single Malt Report: Balvenie Tun 1509 batch 2

The last of the Balvenie Bye-Bye series is one of the Tuns.  When I first scheduled this series a couple months ago, I had thought the Tun 1509s were gone from the US.  Upon arrival they'd instantly vaporized in California, with the only lingering bottles now selling in the $500-$600 range (by retailers intending to battle the secondary market I suppose).  To me, when a whisky reaches that point it's as good as gone.  But then I noticed last week that Tun 1509 is still available in a number of saner states, often selling near its original $300 price.  In fact, winesearcher shows that the average US price for Batch 1 has dropped since its October 2014 release, from $400 to $361.  And if one were to ignore the California opportunists, the average price would drop below $350.  What a bargain!
Anyway, if you don't know the story behind the Tun 1509s, here it goes.  Once upon a time there were nine batches of Balvenie Tun 1401, the supreme example used without irony by industry apologists to try to prove non-age-statement (NAS) whiskies were good.  (Part of the reason the Tun 1401s were "good" was because all of the casks in the mix were over 25 years old, with many being well over 30 years old; meanwhile the vast majority of NAS whiskies are closer to 5 years old.)  A couple years ago, Balvenie stopped putting casks to marry in Tun 1401 and built a larger tun, #1509.  With a larger tun, the new batches would be four times the size of the 1401 batches.  Cheaper casks too, with a lower ratio of ex-sherry butts.  And since we didn't actually know the age of the casks in the mix, the more cynical of us started to wonder if the whisky was also younger than the 1401s.  This feeling was then backed up by reviews on reddit, whiskyfun, and whiskynotes.  So what's the tally here?  More bottles per batch, made from cheaper casks holding likely younger whisky, and a higher MSRP.  If this surprises you, then you must be new to scotch whisky.

I was a very big fan of the Tun 1401 series.  To me, they were blending masterpieces.  Though I was able to try four of the batches, I was never able to purchase a bottle for myself.  And that's a bummer.  But you know what?  It's just whisky, man.  Tun Money can buy a lot of things.

For an OC Scotch Club event, we were able to obtain a bottle of the second batch of Tun 1509 for $300ish.  It turned out to be very popular, surprise surprise.  Luckily I was able to pour a sample for myself before the bottle was emptied.  Let's see how it do.

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: damfino
Maturation: "23 American oak hogsheads and barrels + 7 European oak sherry butts + 2 sherry hogsheads"
Alcohol by Volume: 50.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? Hopefully not

NEAT
The nose starts off with fresh fruit, think peaches and apricots. Dark berry syrup and orange oil. Then it's reminiscent of the excellent apricot rugelach my wife made in December. Sugar cookies, a smoked vanilla bean, and creme brûlée. Then lychee black tea, a hint of aloe, and a little bit of grapey sherry.

Right off the bat, the palate is quieter and narrower than the nose, mostly toasted grains and toasted oak.  With 20+ minutes it develops lots of tiny notes of berries and stone fruit, then bigger notes of almond torte and honey.  A mild sweetness rests in the middle, with a mild spicy undertow.

The almond torte turns into a berry fruit tart in the finish. Then a note somewhere between vanilla ice cream and creme brûlée.  Honey, soft tingly baking spices, and a slight oversteeped bitter tea note.

WITH WATER (~42-43%abv)
The nose becomes hushed.  Creamy and sugary, a hint of florals.  Vanilla, almond extract, and lime juice.

The palate leads with aromatic wood spices, vanilla, and caramel. You know, wood stuff. Then smaller notes of malt, toffee, and floral honey.

The wood spice and malt sit further apart in the finish, along with vanilla and floral honey.

COMMENTARY:
A good, sometimes very good whisky. Best on the nose, and best when served neatly. The oak is always present, but doesn't get loud until the finish.

I'm giving it a good score below, as you can see, but I feel so unenthusiastic about this whisky because of its predecessors. The fact that I even thought to add water to it was a bad sign, as I had never thought to hydrate a 1401. But I'll push aside history here and try to quantify things.

Balvenie Tun 1509 batch 2 is a half step better than the Doublewood 17yo, which itself is a half step better than the Doublewood 12yo.  Or with approximate grades and national prices:
Balvenie Doublewood 12yo: B-/B -- $58
Balvenie Doublewood 17yo: B -- $148
Balvenie Tun 1509 batch 2: B/B+ -- $390

Ignoring the price, I can say this is good, sometimes very good whisky.  And ignoring its older siblings, I can say this is good, sometimes very good whisky.  But I can't ignore those things.  As a short term financial decision, I'd say this was a success.  But as far as the product goes, I don't see this as a step forward for Balvenie.

Availability - It can be found, just not on the West Coast. Look East.
Pricing - anywhere from $350 to $600
Rating - 88

Monday, February 8, 2016

Single Malt Report: Balvenie 15 year old Single Barrel (ex-bourbon, #11161)

Each successive one of these Balvenie Bye-Byes was removed from the range more recently that the one before.  And each is older than the previous.  Today's will look more familiar than the others to many scotch fans.
Actual bottle reviewed!
But wait, you say, the 15 year old Single Sherry Cask is on the shelves everywhere.  And, yes, I say, this the 15 year old Single Barrel when it was pulled only from former bourbon casks.  In 2014 (give or take a couple months), this expression (I'm not a fan of that word) was replaced by two(!) other expressions: the 12 year old Single First Fill Bourbon Barrel and the 15 year old Single Sherry Barrel.  The 12yo entered the market at the same price point as the old 15yo, and the new 15yo Sherry was $20-$30 more expensive.

I have to say I've always appreciated this Single Barrel series.  It's a little nerdier than most official single malt bottlings.  There's actual information on the label, each barrel is different, some are occasionally older than 15 years, and the ABV is higher than most OBs.  The current 12yo, 15yo Sherry, and 25yo Single Barrel releases are still cool in theory, it's their prices that keep me away.

This past November, I found this particular bottle selling near its original 2013 price.  So I scooped it up for an OC Scotch Club event, the same event which had the a'bunadh #50.  They're cool events, you should go to them.  There were two other bottles of this Single Barrel on the shelf, but I left them for others.  And they vanished before the next month.  Here's my review from the bottle:

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 15 years (September 23, 1997 to February 13, 2013)
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrel
Alcohol by Volume: 47.8%
Barrel #: 11161
Bottle #: 103
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? Not much if any

NEAT
The nose is straightforward: oats, barley, lemons, and tangerines.  Smaller notes of fennel seeds, soil, roses, and raspberries appear here and there.

The palate is richly malty.  Ovaltine, milk chocolate, and hard toffee.  Then citrus peels and toasted marshmallows.  It's almost smoky at times and has a little bit of a buzzy chili pepper heat.

The decent length finish has that milk chocolate note and little bit of the toasted marshmallow.  But its biggest note is citrus tanginess (think lemons and limes).  Some rose petals and black pepper too.

Let's see what happens when it's dropped down to Balvenie's usual ABV...

WITH WATER (~43%abv)
The grains remain in the nose and most of the fruit departs.  It gets a little fudgier, like vanilla fudge.  There's some ultra minerally white wine and a hint of grapefruit.

The palate still has the Ovaltine and toffee, but the whole thing feels jumbled, like a deck of cards that's been mushed together, some cards face up, some down, some bent in half.  It's a little bit drying, some salt in the back, some heat.  Maybe some limes.

Limes, malt, black pepper, and a sudden bitterness show up in the finish.

WORDS AND THINGS:
With the oak playing a quiet supporting role, the malt really gets a chance to shine here.  Like most Balvenies this whisky isn't complex, it's just a very good drink.  The nose has more character than the palate and the finish is very pleasant.  I recommend this one be served neatly, since water seems to muddle the best parts.  The more added, the bigger the mess.  The higher ABV serves it well.

As part of the joys and frustrations with single barrel releases, different barrels will have different characteristics and qualities -- see my other Balvenie 15yo SB reviews here and here.  I do think that most of their 15yo ex-bourbon Single Barrels will tend to fall in the 80s scores or B grades, so if you do find one of these former SBs you'll have to gauge whether you're willing to pay the asking price (see below) for that level of whisky.

Availability - Some bottles are lingering on the shelves at random retailers
Pricing - anywhere from $85 to $135
Rating - 87 (neat only)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Single Malt Report: Balvenie 12 year old Signature (Batch #5, 40%abv edition)

On Wednesday I reported on Balvenie's late 10 year old Founder's Reserve.  Today, I'm reviewing Founder's's replacement, the 12 year old Signature.

(source)
Like Founder's (and unlike Doublewood), Signature was a blend of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casksm but it's NOT an ex-sherry finished product.  It came into the market in 2008 as Founder's was being phased out.  In 2012, the Signature was then phased out entirely.  Perhaps it was due to an aged stock shortage (2011 was a big year in volume sales for the industry) or the distillery wanted to prevent confusion between their two 12 year old whiskies.  In any case, out it went, never to be replaced by another married-rather-than-finished product.

On a side note, Balvenie's official site has an "Archive" page devoted to their former whiskies.  You'll recognize many of those products.  There's a Founder's Reserve page in there too.  But there is, conspicuously, no listing of the Signature.  This is especially weird because I remember their "Our Range" page listing the Signature even after it had been phased out.  You may start your conspiracy theories......now.

Today's sample was purchased from Master of Malt in the spring of 2013, thus it's the UK's 40%abv edition.


Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, married
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Bottling year: 2011
Chillfiltered? Likely
Color added? Probably a little bit
Note: I tasted the Founder's Reserve and Signature side-by-side.

The Signature's color is noticeably darker than the Reserve's.  More age?  More sherry casks?  More e150a?

Lots of toasted grains arrive first in the nose.  Then caramel, strawberry candy, and salty seaweed.  There's cat fur (though that note has been questioned before), orange oil, and saltines.  After 20 minutes, a youthful cinnamon bark note shows up, and maybe some furniture polish.

Some surprising thickness to the palate, considering its ABV.  It's all honey, caramel sauce, and vanilla at first.  With air, the caramel sauce becomes toffee pudding.  Then there's toasted marshmallow and hints of circus peanuts and zesty oak spice.

That oak spice stays through the finish.  Vanilla, malt, and small moments of toffee and circus peanuts.  A decent length to it all.

The Signature felt bolder and fuller than the Founder's Reserve at times, but perhaps that's because more oak pokes through.  It feels a little heavier, despite the lower ABV.  But at the same time, this 12yo had more young notes than the 10yo.  I still liked it a lot, and at 43% it probably could be as good or better than the Doublewood.  It's yet another very nice drink from Mr. Stewart's lab.  Goodness, I remember when Founder's Reserve, Signature, and Doublewood could all still be found on LA's shelves in early 2011 for $45 or less.  Now we just have Doublewood pushing $60.

Availability - Secondary market, or perhaps on a lucky dusty hunt
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (the 43%abv edition may be a few points higher)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Single Malt Report: Balvenie 10 year old The Founder's Reserve (final edition)

On Monday, I reported on the old Balvenie 8 year old Pure Malt.  Today's Balvenie Bye-Bye is the 10 year old Founders Reserve.  The '80s and early '90s bottlings have become somewhat infamous for their cognac/calvados-like bottle shape:
NOT THE VERSION
being reviewed today
(source)
In the 21st century, Balvenie updated the packaging, so that it looked like a whisky bottle:

Low res image of the actual bottle reviewed!
The Founder's Reserve differs from the Doublewood in that rather than having the Double's secondary maturation (ex-bourbon barrel stuff finished in ex-sherry casks), Founder's is a marriage of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry malts.  Thus it's a little bit more of a blending exercise than modern finishing.

This sample came to me thanks to a Southern California Whiskey Club event.  I was unable to attend, but I happily bought samples.

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, married
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Bottling year: 2008 or earlier
Chillfiltered? Likely
Color added? Not much, if so

The nose starts out very peachy.  There's a little odd meaty note in the background that disappears after a few minutes.  Then clean linens, strawberry bubblegum, and toasted grains.  Vanilla ice cream and apple peels.  Hints of toffee and coconut cream.

The palate is very focused: caramel, honey, milk chocolate, and Triscuits.  After twenty minutes there are small toasted oak notes and roasted nuts.

The finish is all toasted coconut, caramel, roasted almonds, and a tiny bit of vanilla.

It's a candy bar.  The nose is fruity and more complex but the palate is clear as day.  It often feels older than its 10 years, so perhaps David Stewart snuck in some older lower ABV casks.  The weird note on the nose didn't bother because it vanished so quickly.  Otherwise, it's basically a simple flawless dessert whisky.  And it's a damn shame this whisky no longer exists.  In my next post, I'll take a gander at what replaced The Founder's Reserve.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Monday, February 1, 2016

Balvenie Bye-Bye: Balvenie "over 8 years" old Pure Malt (early '80s UK bottling?)

Corporate shenanigans and recent price increases aside, Balvenie makes a reliable single malt.  From their 12yo Doublewood to the 21yo Portwood, I've rarely found a disappointing whisky.  And their Tun 1401s are some of my all time favorites.  While they have an extensive (by today's standards) age-stated range, there have been a number of products that have gotten axed over the years.

Over the next two weeks I'll be tasting five former Balvenie products.  Some of these can still be found if you're either lucky or willing to pay a premium in the secondary market.  In fact, the final two (next week's two) are lingering here and there at some retailers.



BALVENIE 8 YEAR OLD PURE MALT

Balvenie's malt whisky was first bottled in the early 1970s.  Some (or all) of its first bottlings looked like this:
It has the Glenfiddich/Grant's triangular bottle shape with the Glenfiddich green glass.  But to set it apart from the other William Grant products, it was given a faux leather black label with gold colored lettering and design.  Yeah, it's kind of a weird bottle.  But it was the '70s.


Yet, was this specific bottle really from the decade of Quadrophenia, Sticky Fingers, and Tubular Bells?  I'm not so sure.  Let's take a closer look at the label.


With the alcohol content not listed with a "proof" designation and the size measured in metric, no UPC code or health warning, it would make this a mid-to-late-'80s bottling......if it was released in America.  But was it released in the US?  With the "º" and "GL" and "cL" notations and no importer information, it looks an awful lot like a UK bottling.  But it's 750mL, so it has to be a US bottle, right?  Nope.  According to two good whisky forums, it wasn't until 1992 that the EU standardized their bottles at 700mL.  Buuuuuuut, according to those same sources, UK standard size bottles were shown as "26 2/3 fl. oz." until 1/1/1980 when they became 750mL (or 75cL).  Thus I'm going with the assumption that this was an early 1980s UK release.  (If you have other theories or actual facts, please let me know in the comments below!)

I only have access to this whisky thanks(!) to my buddy JLR from the Orangest part of the OC.  His friend found the bottle in his father-in-law's garage, but no one knew where the bottle actually came from.  I do like a mystery dusty.

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 8 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Bottling year: possibly the early 1980s
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? Not much, if so

The nose begins with shoe polish + eucalyptus, and lots of it.  Then leather and new car.  Lemon ammonia.  It takes around 10 minutes for it open up further.  Then comes vanilla, raspberry jam, and burnt butter.  And a nice creamy caramel dulce de leche sort of thing.

The palate is difficult at first, all metallic and bitter.  Moldy basement.  Then some vanilla, sugar, bandages, and salty broth.  After 20+ minutes a sweet malty note peeks out.  There's an acidic astringency to it that sometimes kinda works.

The finish is not short.  At first the bitterness is woody, then gradually it turns into black bitter coffee.  It's also at turns salty, sugary, earthy, and peppery, ultimately leaving behind a chemical aftertaste.

Unlike the current Balvenie output, this whisky is not a crowdpleaser.  Nothing about it shouts overproduction nor reveals too much woodwork.  But that doesn't necessarily mean it's great.  The nose is a hoot, sometimes full of old bottle weirdness, sometimes quite decent.  The palate is bumpier than a New York highway in March.  The finish tastes like a New York highway in March.

Most of the online reviews of this whisky have been pretty brutal, but the whiskybase scores are very high.  My opinion falls somewhere in between, with the finish dragging it down a bit.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 74

Friday, January 29, 2016

Taste Off! Aberlour a'bunadh batch 50 versus Macllan Cask Strength 60.1% abv edition

After I did Tuesday's and Wednesday's tasting I was left somewhat puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm I felt about the two a'bunadhs.  They were good enough for 80+ scores, but nothing I'd buy.  I've always liked cask strength sherry bombs, even when I didn't like sherried whisky in general.  That big rich assault used to appeal to my senses.  And now it was not.  Was it the whisky or was it me?

Macallan used to make cask strength whisky, sometimes it was 10 years old, sometimes it was not.  I found two batches very astringent and sour.  I found another two batches pretty decent.  And the old all-red label stuff was awesome.  At some point, Florin gave me a half bottle of one of the last editions because he didn't care for it.  I liked it enough that I bought a bottle when I found it for its original price at a local store.  And then Macallan discontinued the Cask Strength line entirely.

I saved a couple samples of that stuff and swapped a couple more out in then forgot about it.  Then came a very positive My Annoying Opinions review of one of the samples.  As you may know, it's difficult to wow MAO, so his positive take on it made me consider doing my own review.  And it took only 13 months for me to call this audible and compare it to a fellow young sherry monster.


Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 5 to 25 years (probably mostly from the very lower end of that range)
Maturation: ex-oloroso butts
Alcohol by Volume: 59.6%
Batch: 50
Bottled: 2015
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No

AND


Distillery: The Macallan
Brand: Cask Strength
Age: probably 10 years or less
Maturation: ex-oloroso casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 60.1%
Bottled: 2010
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No (I think)

So I'm going to state this up front.  This Taste Off turned out much different than I had expected.  In fact it was a little weird.  Here it goes...



NEAT

ABERLOUR A'BUNADH batch 50
Yep there's the butterscotch in the nose, followed by rich creamery butter.  Then barrel char and shoe polish.  Mild sherry / prune note throughout.  A bit of vanilla too.

Toffee and prune-y sherry in the palate.  A little spicy zing and a hint of good bitterness.  Cherry popsicles.

Chocolate cherry cordials and orange sherbet in the finish.  Some oak spice in the back.

MACALLAN CASK STRENGTH 60.1%abv
Caramel, loads of rich caramel in the nose.  Paint VOCs, new car smell, and musty moldy sherry.  Hints of oranges and salty air.  Mixed salted nuts, gooey dates, and a little bit of vanilla.

It's really easy to drink.  I mean, weirdly so.  And it's oddly......bourbony, like ND-era Old Taylor (which does taste good).  It's a bit woody at times, lots of vanilla.  A nutty creamy sherry lingers in the background.

The finish dries out, gets the tannins going.  Some dark cherries, caramel, and vanilla.



WITH WATER (~46%abv)

ABERLOUR A'BUNADH batch 50
Raspberry fruit leather, red Pixy Stix, figs, and anise in the nose.

On the palate, the sherry sweetens up, picks up more sugary fruits.  A little spicy bite.  Slight fizziness, like raspberry Schweppes.

The finish is a little acidic and tart.  Blackberry and raspberry syrups, and some caramel.

MACALLAN CASK STRENGTH 60.1%abv
The nose has a mustiness that makes it feel like an older dustier whisky.  Then a big toffee pudding note.  Then walnuts and cashews.  A hint of lemon.  Dried fruit waaaay in the back.

The sugary palate is entirely caramel, sweet cream, and almonds.

The finish is sweet but short.  Caramel and a woody bitterness.



WITH WATER (~40%abv)

ABERLOUR A'BUNADH batch 50
The nose gets sharper, narrower.  Less sherry, more barley.  Confectioner's sugar and carpet.

The palate also get narrower.  But it also gets very sugary, like some sort of raspberry candy.

The finish is candied and simple.  Vanilla and lime.

MACALLAN CASK STRENGTH 60.1%abv
The woody nose does pull out some toffee and dried fruit sherry-like notes.  Some ginger, too.

Again a very sweet palate.  Caramel and vanilla.

The finish is short and sweet.



COMMENTS:

First some thoughts about the Aberlour.  Compared to its sparring partner, the a'bunadh felt more like a classic sherried whisky.  There's still the odd butteriness to it when neat, but overall it felt like a better drink than it did in the previous post.  It still gets thrown off at the 40%abv point, but not as badly as before.  So its score will go up a little.

Then there's the Macallan.  There is so much caramel and vanilla going on in this CS that it almost seems like one of their Fine Oak releases, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.  It just caught me so off guard that it took a while for me to appreciate the whisky for what it is.  There's much much more sherry in the nose than in the palate.  But then there's the fact that it is unnervingly easy to drink at full strength.  The nose presents itself as a cask strength whisky but the palate arrives like its ABV is 15 degrees lower.  The nose stands up to water well, and though the palate doesn't disappear when hydrated, it doesn't hold up as well.

MAO found the same easy drinking phenomenon and caramel notes when doing his review.  We discussed the possibility of there being too much oxidation, but I didn't think that was the case.  This bottle went pretty quickly.  If there was something screwy with my bottle then it did not ruin the experience.  Getting past my preconceptions, I liked this Macallan.  It's tasty and devoid of all the sour notes that I disliked in other batches.  And I liked the Aberlour better than last time as well.  So, in a way, this was a success.

ABERLOUR A'BUNADH batch 50
Availability - 
most prevalent batch in the US at this moment

Pricing - $70-$90
Rating - 85

MACALLAN CASK STRENGTH 60.1%abv
Availability - secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (please note the comments above)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Single Malt Report: Aberlour a'bunadh batch 50

Now for a more recent batch of a'bunadh, number 50.  It's also a bigger sample, which I poured from this very bottle:
The correct pronunciation is "ah-BOON-ar", which is awesome because until last year I was pronouncing it "AH-buh-nad".  Ah yes, ever the expert.  I'm glad you're still reading.  Are you still reading?

The bottle was from an OC Scotch Club event two months ago.  After I'd poured it for everyone at the event, the woman next to me took a sip and exclaimed, "YUCK!"  I complimented her on the most concise tasting note ever, a description so succinct it would make Sku jealous.

Of course my notes have never been accused of brevity.  So to continue the habit, I broke this tasting up into full strength, 48%abv, and 40%abv versions.

Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 5 to 25 years (probably mostly from the very lower end of that range)
Maturation: ex-oloroso butts
Alcohol by Volume: 59.6%
Batch: 50
Bottled: 2015
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No

NEAT
The entire nose is blanketed with buttery butterscotch.  There's a smidgen of sulphur underneath it, then Sugar Daddy pops, cherry lollipops, butter, anise-infused sherry, and super buttery chardonnay.

The palate has much less butter than on the nose and less heat than batch 38.  It's mildly sweet with toffee and maraschino cherries.  There's a little bit of green grain in the background, and something occasionally smoky and sometimes phenolic that still sort of reminds me of sulphur.

Toffeed nutty sherry, maraschino cherries, salt, and vanilla extract in the finish.

WITH WATER (~48%abv)
Yep, still with that butterscotch in the nose, though it's gotten maltier.  There's a little bit of musty funk, but also some perfumy notes.  Peanut dust, American oak barrel char, and apple juice.  Apparently the sherry lost its grapes.

The palate grows creamier and sweeter, but also picks up some earthiness and good bitterness.  There's the barrel char again, almond cookies, nutmeg, and toffee.

More of a classic sherry retro-olfaction at the finish of the finish.  Malt and vanilla.  A slight cardboard note.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Hmm, as with batch 38, the nose gets grittier at this abv, more difficult.  Burnt nuts, metal, and limes.

Meanwhile, the palate is sugary sweet.  Cherry syrup, toasted grains, cardboard, and an eggy sulphur.

Cherry syrup, sugar, and eggs in the finish.

COMMENTS:
Again, a'bunadh totally disintegrates at 40%abv.  It's very weird and more than a little unpleasant when it happens.  This batch, unlike 38, seems barely legal throughout.  And there is A LOT of American oak belching forth from this one.

I like it best at full strength where, unlike batch 38, it's entirely drinkable.  It's also pleasant at 48%abv, though be careful with that water!  This one gets three points more than #38 due how it reads at full power, but then loses four points for its jumbled make up.  (That's some scoring for ya!)  This batch will appeal to sherry fans who don't mind a lot of US oak in the mix and a spirit that is not much more than five years old.

Availability - most prevalent batch in the US at this moment
Pricing - $70-$90
Rating - 83  (the score went up a little in the next review)