Here’s the thing about fall in the Northeast: you have no idea what you’re going to get.
I wake up in the morning, go out back to feed the chickens and there’s this sharp chill in the air, but I’m a badass as I check for eggs in just my underwear and t-shirt and I think I’m the Incredible Hulk cause I’m braving the elements. By the time I eat breakfast, shower and dress, it’s eighty-two and humid and I’m feeling like the Human Torch in a Swedish sauna.
As soon as lunch rolls around, the sun is pounding on my shoulders and I’m about to pass out from heat exhaustion, as if I’m Professor Xavier on a Cerebro overload. After dinner, I’m searching for my sweater: is Mystere wearing it? It’s fall dammit, and I love it! And I gotta get some new reading material.
It’s really about the surprise, the unexpectedness of what’s going to happen next, the take-a-chance part of life that kind of gets the blood moving; it’s the last of summer and the first of winter; its putting a rich cigar up against a beast of a whisky. Yeah, let’s see how this rolls out.
I’m unwrapping a Montecristo Toro 6x60, rich and moist, a double binder of spice and aroma: Dominican Olor and Nicaraguan Corojo. An aged filler of Dominican and coated in an Ecuadorean wrapper.
Shit’s complex, bro.
Gorgeous, no veins, no edges, gives slightly on a squeeze, the foot aromatic and barn-yard-y and toasts evenly to create a sublime corona of ash around a deep red core. The first third is delightful and rich, melting into chocolate notes, lingering spice on the exhale. It’s like chocolate cake with chocolate icing and chocolate sprinkles.
Now, the challenge: a sherry bomb of Scotch whisky.
The Aberlour A’bunadh is a cask strength, un-chill-filtered beast of a whisky, fully aged in ex-Oloroso sherry butts. Aberlour is one of those Scotch distilleries in the heart of the Speyside district that is picturesque and ancient, with its pagoda tops popping above a sylvan, verdant dale of green countryside.
Aberlour means “mouth of the chattering burn” a shout-out to the water source they use but it also reaches back into deep Celtic and Druid history, when the burn was used by Christian monks to save those heathen Druid souls through baptism.
Damn, there’s some layers in that.
This whisky is one of the few offered in the ancient style: 100% sherry barrel aged, so there’s deep berry fruit, figs, dates, ripe plums, a damn cornucopia of late summer fruit. Meandering through it is this wisp of turf smoke, a slight earthiness born of the peat fire that dries the barley to a fine toast and lingers through to the bottling.
It wraps around the Toro, or should I say the Toro wraps around it, a perfectly balanced complement of richness, of chocolate cake smothered in warm berries and cream. A’bunadh means “the original” and it differs from the others in the range (12, 16 and 18 year) in that besides its lack of age statement, it is presented only twice a year in limited batches, at cask strength and without chill-filtration. That means they don’t liposuction the fat out of the liquid before bottling, keeping all the fats and oils that give its rich mouthfeel.
It’s a purple sweater against the chill of the evening. The double binder on the Montecristo brings a solid, sturdy base to layer on the aromatics of the
Abunad’h in the same way the whisky’s rich, natural mouthfeel encases the delicate smoke that emanates from its internal fire.
Getting down to the last third of the Toro, I get deeper notes of leather that wrap with a noticeable trace of liniment that is the provenance of sherrycasks. The huge blast of sherried whisky at 60.7% ABV at mid-palate is actually mellowed by the silky richness of the Toro’s smoke like a blast of chilled wind is offset by the gnarled cords of a well-made wool sweater: it lets enough through to let you know what’s out there and there’s a promise of more.
The chickens in the yard are molting their feathers, getting ready to put on their super-hero suits as we head into winter: PowerChicken? SuperCluck? The Squawker? Without those feathers, they look kind of scrawny and ragged, like Bruce Banner or Peter Parker and they look like they can use a drink and a smoke.
Nah, it’d be a waste of a good whisky. Not to mention the ridiculous sight of a chicken wearing a cape and smoking a cigar.