Recently I read an interesting interview. It was conducted with Eyck Thormann, who works for the spirit giant Pernod Ricard as a brand ambassador for whiskies, but who himself looks back on a long time as bar manager in Hamburg St. Pauli and who several times became “German Cocktail Champion”. And – you might guess it in view of his personal biography – the interview naturally also dealt with the use of whiskies in cocktails. A topic, which I also did address here repeatedly in the past. (provided test product)*
Of course, as soon as it is about Bourbon, Rye & Co (i.e. whiskeys), this seems to be no big deal. However, when it comes to Scottish single malts, people suddenly tend to judge differently and you might be confronted with scepticism or even rejection. For example, when I visit a spirits exhibition and talk about the topic of mixability at whisky stands, the reactions are sometimes quite condescending, unfortunately! What’s always misjudged here is the fact that nobody forces you to mix your single malt – and even if you do, that does not mean you have to enjoy your neat moments less. Instead, if you are willing to try a good single malt in a context in which it opens up a completely different world of taste, you will easily recognize that it cannot be replaced by anything else. The argument telling you this is a waste of whisky is therefore completely out of place. In upscale cuisine, no one would come up with the idea of describing an ingredient in a dish as wasted simply because it is considered quite noble in itself or offers an excellent taste of its own. In this respect, a considerable part of the single malt drinker community is extremely conservative.
To what extent a good single malt can be both, I would like to show once more today. But I would also like to make some small restrictions myself: A cocktail from the Sours category, for example, can easily be prepared with just about any spirit imaginable. Citrus juice, sugar, spirits – that’s all you need. Nevertheless: Sours (and this usually also applies to Tiki punches) usually counter the character of a spirit drink with ingredients with certain traits: acidity, sweetness and a lot of diluting liquid. In fact, they change the taste of the basic spirit more significantly than it would be the case in a julep, old fashioned or vermouth cocktail, for example. I’m not saying that a good Scotch Single Malt can’t cut a good figure in a sour, but that I’d rather use such a matured distillate in a different cocktail style. For example in an Old Fashioned, where the spirit can shine through very well and is only “pushed” in a certain direction by nuances of sweetness and bitters.
But now to the essentials: Already some time ago I wrote in my blog about the 12-year-old Aberlour Scotch Single Malt Whisky, a very recommendable malt from the Scottish Speyside. For backgrounds to the distillery and the like I would like to refer you to this article. With the Aberlour A’Bunadh I now have a whisky in front of me, which is a very nice thing to review. The reason is simple: this bottling enjoys an outstanding good reputation and I already tasted it myself some years ago (at that time from Batch No. 41) – and was enthusiastic! In this respect, my tasting notes below are also a kind of reminiscence of a very nice and personal single malt experience. The Aberlour A’Bunadh is also a whisky bottled in barrel strength, which doesn’t bear any indication of age, but instead relies entirely on an explosion of aromas and flavours, which makes some of its competitors appear pale in comparison. The review bottle in front of me belongs to batch number 60 and was bottled with an ABV of 60,3%. The Aberlour A’Bunadh owes its character and famous expressiveness to its exclusive ageing in former Oloroso sherry barrels. A’Bunadh means as much as “the original”.
Aroma: Sherry notes over and over! A basket full of dark fruits, especially cherries, plums and raisins, with minimal associations of smoke. I also find orange jam, actually sweet, ripe apples. As time goes by, more and more spices and oak are making their way. This is a very intense and rich nose, incredibly seductive – I could spend all day just moving the glass in front of my nose.
Taste: Here, too, I find sweet sherry with notes of black cherries, followed by oranges, almost syrupy. What is absolutely astonishing is the mildness of the alcohol, hard to believe there are more than 60% vol. in the glass. Normally I use a few drops of water for such a strength, but I don’t see any necessity. Here, too, I find spices that mix with tart cocoa over time, the oak wood is noticeable, but is restrained with bitter tones. Very balanced and fully aromatic, simply wonderful. This single malt is a liquid advertisement for the Speyside region!
Finish: long and quite dry with spices and raisins.
I rarely use superlatives, but the Aberlour A’Bunadh simply deserves them. A fantastic whisky!
But now back to the cocktail. It belongs, as already indicated, to the Old Fashioned category. I wanted to pick up the beautiful, dark fruit notes of the Aberlour A’Bunadh, accentuate them and add extra depth – not because the whisky needs it, but because you can easily make this drink and will get something completely new and incredibly multi-layered! The Auld Alliance in mind, I used a little French cherry liqueur (in an emergency, you could also replace it with a Cherry Heering) and the French herbal liqueur D.O.M. Benedictine in the drink. Everything is rounded off by a generous Dash of Bob’s Liquorice Bitters. These are indeed difficult to replace here, but they harmonize wonderfully with the cherry and raisin notes. I named the drink Auld Corbeille in a Scottish-French combination – and it seems to be a suitable name for an Old Fashioned with this profile of flavours.
Recipe “Auld Corbeille”:
5 cl Aberlour A’Bunadh
1 cl Gabriel Boudier Guignolet de Dijon
1 bar spoon D.O.M. Benedictine
1 Dash Bob’s Liquorice Bitters
Preparation: The drink is made in a glass. Simply pour all ingredients into the glass on solid ice, stir briefly, done.
Garnish: one fresh cherry
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online
*The fact that this product has been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.