Aberfeldy distillery was built by blender John Dewar & Sons. It is located in Perthshire alongside the banks of the River Tay and has been in operation since 1896. In 2014 Aberfeldy's bottlings were remarketed and joined the 'Last Great Malts' selection - a brand proposition which highlights the distillery's single malt expressions alongside those of Aultmore, Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla.
Aberfeldy's 21 year old was re-launched with a new design in 2015 and lies within their core range of bottlings (12, 16, 18, 21 & 28 year olds). It's a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks and has won several gold medals and 'best in show' awards. It's a whisky that has always held a soft spot in my heart, and one to this day which I still use as a 'learning tool' for introducing newbies to the more woody flavours which can be associated with longer periods of cask maturation.
Given my love of this dram, it's a tough one to review fairly, but let's take off my rose-tinted glasses and try to be at least somewhat analytical about things.
Nose: Truly glorious. Close your eyes and you're sitting in a comfy worn leather chair surrounded by shelves of ancient leather-bound tombs whilst honey bees flit around the gentle smoke of your delicate cigar. A florid description if ever there was one – allow me to elucidate properly: Immediate warm and waxy honey aromas merge with very woody notes of tanned leather, furniture polish and pencil shavings. There’s slight orange marmalade for sweetness and an underlying sweet and savoury herb note, possibly nettles or even dill leaves. Subtle spicing from very light pepper, cinnamon and musk provide further intrigues. I could nose this for hours – and indeed have.
Taste: Solid arrival but a touch underpowered when compared to the magnificent nose. Wood notes are amped up further here with the polish and shavings increasing their presence. Our bees have been stove cooking as their garden honey has caramelised and added sweetness. There’s some real astringency from the oak, but the sweeter notes balance this out excellently. Deeper flavours of chocolate, oranges and nectarines add further depth alongside still subtle spice notes of cinnamon again, but now with a touch of nutmeg.
Finish: Medium length (though straight out of the bottle can seem arguably short). Fruity finish, emphasising honeyed and chocolate covered orange segments.
I adore this whisky, but it’s not all plain sailing. The nose is legendary and right up there with the very best. However the 40% ABV does this whisky a disservice and allows the incredibly expressive nose to translate into a somewhat thinned and watery mouthfeel, which in turn, doesn’t deliver nearly as much impact of flavour. This said, Aberfeldy 21 year old is still a bottle I love – It’s a woody whisky, but one where compassionate composition has pulled together a wonderful selection of flavours all of which are in tune with one another.