Whisky Reviews: The Perfect Fifth Aberlour 30 Year, Bunnahabhain 28 Year

, | March 29, 2022

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by The Perfect Fifth. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

While Scotland boasts a couple hundred of independent bottlers, The Perfect Fifth is one of America’s few and newest, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Single Cask Nation, one of the oldest American independent bottlers, and wine and spirits store K&L. According to The Perfect Fifth’s website, their mission is to uncover and bottle rare casks. Their earlier releases included a top-rated 31-year-old Highland Park Single Malt and a 42-year-old Cambus Single Grain whisky. All of the whiskies in the range are all extremely limited, with a couple hundred bottles of each produced.

Karl Schoen founded The Perfect Fifth in 2019 in Miami, Florida, a particularly unusual undertaking for a 19-year-old. Despite his youth, Schoen credits his family’s decades of experience in the retail liquor business and shared passion for Scotch for building his knowledge base. The Perfect Fifth achieved early success, including being named the 2019 Scotch Campbeltown Independent Bottler of the Year in the Independent Bottlers Challenge, receiving awards from The Tasting Panel and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, and recently reaching a distribution agreement in Europe with German-based distributor, Multee.

Under consideration today are two of the newest releases, The Perfect Fifth Aberlour 30 Year and The Perfect Fifth Bunnahabhain 28 Year. These are bottled at cask strength of 51.5% and 50.5%, respectively. Aberlour was founded in the late 19th century in Speyside on the Lour Creek. Despite the distillery being known for sherry cask aging, Schoen selected an ex-bourbon barrel for the The Perfect Fifth Aberlour 30 Year. It’s an interesting choice from The Perfect Fifth, which aims to offer classic profiles from the respective distilleries. Bunnahabhain is a producer notable for its limited use of peat despite being located in peat-centric Islay. Their whiskies tend to be more influenced by the seaside location, on the Sound of Islay, and cask maturation. This is evident in the provided sample.

The Perfect Fifth Aberlour 1989 (image via The Perfect Fifth)

The Perfect Fifth Aberlour 1989 (image via The Perfect Fifth)

Tasting Notes: The Perfect Fifth Aberlour 30 Year Single Malt Whisky

Vital Stats: 1989 vintage, 241 bottles were bottled in 2020, first fill ex-bourbon cask, 51.5% ABV, Speyside, non chill filtered, no color added, mash bill: 100% malted barley, SRP approximately $2,500/ 750ml bottle.

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Appearance: This whisky is dark gold in color and moderately pale.

Nose: Opening with a nose of fresh mushrooms and grease that gives way to aromas of violet cream candies. There’s an interplay between oxidative notes and volatile acidity, like a whiff of vinegar. It’s very aromatic, giving notes that seem gritty and industrial on one hand, and floral and fruit-dominate on the other. It’s musky, like a floral perfume, with a lingering baked cinnamon cookie note. I could sit here smelling it for some time.

Palate: A sip offers a similarly complex experience. There’s a zippy, spicy feel to the palate from the alcohol. The flavor profile leans heavily on yellow and orange fruits: orange oil, baked pineapple, and apricot glaze. It’s like eating a French tart. As the whisky evaporates, it hits the retro-nasal aromatics hard, leaving a finish of dried apricots and a touch of floral notes from the VA. This is fascinating, impactful, and pungent in a near-perfect combination.

Score: 4.5/5

The Perfect Fifth Bunnahabhain 1991 (image via The Perfect Fifth)

The Perfect Fifth Bunnahabhain 1991 (image via The Perfect Fifth)

Tasting Notes: The Perfect Fifth Bunnahabhain 28 Year Single Malt Whisky

Vital Stats: 1991 vintage, 165 bottles were bottled in 2020, first fill ex-bourbon cask, 50.5%, Islay, non chill filtered, no color added, mash bill: 100% malted barley, SRP approximately $800/ 750ml bottle.

Appearance: The Bunnahabhain 28 Year Whisky is pale golden in color with a yellow-green undertone.

Nose: This is an interesting follow up to the other whisky reviewed as it offers a similar opening of volatile acidity and chemical aromatics. Unfortunately, though rather complex, most of the aromatics on offer are simply unpleasant. Chemical notes predominate, from volatile acidity, rubbing alcohol, to rubber cement. There’s an oxidative impression similar to sherry or vin jaune, with notes of shoe polish and toasted walnuts that gives way to cocoa powder. I found hints of seaweed, brine, tarragon, and rose oil, but these were mostly masked by the chemical notes.

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Palate: On sipping, the flavors are similarly off-putting, ranging from vinegar pickles, cocoa nibs, raisins, and seaweed. It’s harsh and bitter even with a splash of water. There’s a faintly savory note on the finish. I found it difficult to continue tasting due to the unpleasant combination of sour and bitter flavors mixed with the chemical and seashore aromatics. This was fascinating exploration of how whisky can be complex yet unpleasant. There are whispered suggestions of chocolate and the sea, but it’s a punishing experience.

Score: 2/5

The Takeaway: I’m left intrigued by the two whiskies. Both offer a hefty chemical note to their aromatics, but the Bunnahabhain 28 Year Whisky lacks the balance and life of the Aberlour 30 Year Whisky. The Aberlour 30 Year Whisky, though somewhat unusual for the distillery in that it is all ex-bourbon cask aged, is a profound exploration of the distillery’s craft at the height of maturity.

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Suzanne Bayard

Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...