Another head to head comparison, this one a rather unorthodox one between a popular sherry bomb, the Aberlour A’bunadh pitted against a port affinite tropical thunder, the Amrut Portnova. And to be fair though this isn’t an apples to apples comparison, this could be gauged a bit differently- a red vs green variety perhaps?!
As we head into this East vs West dual, we go into this blind in the hopes to deliver a fair, balanced outcome. A few notes…
1. To make sure we don’t mess up between the two, my partner graciously poured a dram into seperate glencairn glasses, marking each glass distinctly so that she and only she could differentiate between the two.
2. We will run through most of the basic characteristics and use them as metrics of comparison.
3. Until we reveal the whiskies, I’ll address them by their psuedonames – Rocksteady (RS) and Bebop (BB)!
RS – Auburn, Natural Colouring, Non Chill filtered
BB – Mahagony, a shade darker, just! Natural colouring, Non Chill filtered
RS – Sweet caramel with lovely vanilla notes, the richness of rum ‘n raisins, with dried fruits, red wine, prunes and some tobacco. Spicy and woody though not overpowering with hints of pepper and nutmeg.
BB – Rich and sweet port wine, accompanied with caramel and prunes. Some grass and smoke with a touch of grain and dense herbal oil almost ayurvedic. Some lemon zest followed by green pepper and cardamom tea.
Both spirits offered two distinct experiences, one more Christmasy, delicate and delightful while the other introduced a deep, rich flavour with an added herbal, spicy dimension almost taking over the red wine influences that caressed me at first. Though both stand out in their own rights, to me it was clear who I’ll be sniffing more. Points go to Bebop because it offered a different and possibly almost unique spectrum of flavours on the nose.
RS : Woody with a lovely fusion of dark fruits, red grapes and brown sugar all tied together quite nicely. The richness continues with some dried fruits sprinkled over cinnamon rolls along with a whiff of smoke and some char.
BB : Chewy and rich, you are showered with dried fruits, deep red wine, plums and some brown sugar. Dark chocolate with brief nuances of melons; bits of dil, wood and some vegetal notes.
This one is a bit difficult, both again very different more so owing to their inherent DNA and with some onus due to the differential maturation – Port vs Olorroso. You can’t really fault with either, both complex, diverse, strong with a good delivery of flavour and balance. I call this one a TIE.
RS – Medium to long | Caramel and winey, with oaky bits and hints of cinnamon.
BB – Medium to long | Sweet and woody, complimented with dark chocolate and wine.
Both have a strong finish; memorable, fun and comforting with nothing pulling either down. Another TIE here unfortunately.
The reveal (*drum roll*), Rochsteady was none other than the Aberlour A’bunadh (batch 57) while Bebop, Amrut Portnova.
ABV : RS comes in at a strong 60.7% while BB a tad bit higher at 62.1%.
Pocket burn : RS @ AUD $130, BB @ AUD $169.
Final words, this was an interesting, inspiring and fun filled tasting. And to be honest, a great experience. I think the true winner boils down to personal taste, preference and palate. All in all, I found the Portnova to be a more aggressive and possibly stronger spirit on the senses, with the A’bunadh being the more subtle, calm and delicate one. I would lean on to Bebop (Amrut Portnova) only because it was a change from the usual Scotch I was accustomed to and gave a very different take on wine influenced whiskies. But having said that the A’bunadh was a beaut too, a stellar whisky and flavourful at that, one that was (and is) hard to pass.
Preference : Both could do with a bit of water to make it more approachable and palatable. The high ABV does tend to burn a bit…
*To be honest, I had an inkling right after the nose which between the two samples was the Portnova; and just putting it out there – the truth was revealed only post the tasting!*
PS – the pics were taken a day after the tasting drill!