Aberlour was constructed in 1879 by James Fleming and sits alongside the banks of the River Spey in the town of Aberlour. Fleming is buried in the churchyard opposite the distillery. Famous for it's full-flavoured, sherry-led whiskies, Aberlour produced a wide variety of age-statement whiskies alongside the well known and well loved NAS A'bunadh.
So, here it is, the batch of A'Bunadh that changed everything. One minute, this bottling was £50 - overnight it shot up to £80. Let's at least hope it's a good one.
Aberlour A'bunadh was first released in 1997. This batch was released in 2016 and bottled at 60.5%
Batch 53 of A'Bunadh was released in 2016, and like all Abunadh's has been aged in 100% oloroso sherry casks. The bottling is an NAS that's composed of a marriage of whiskies from 5, up to 25 years of age.
Aberlour A'bunadh was first released in 1997. Ten years later and we're not far off seeing batch number 60 roll out. Such is the perennial popularity of this whisky. As a ‘batch’ produced bottling each release varies, being a marriage of whiskies aged between five and twenty five years of age and clocking in an impressive 59-61% ABV. But, not everything changes – A’bunadh is always constructed from first fill oloroso sherry butts and is never coloured nor chill filtered.
Aberlour’s 10 year old entry-level bottling is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. It’s a hugely popular whisky, currently available in over 50 countries worldwide – and it’s easy to see why with a price point of less than £30 here in the UK. The bottling is delivered with an ABV of 40%.
This bottling of 10 year old Aberlour comes from around 1988 according to the Interwebs. It’s from a time when the distillery still described its whiskies as ‘Aberlour-Glenlivet’ a moniker used fairly extensively across Speyside, but now entirely dropped, save for The Glenlivet itself. The whisky is a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask maturation and is bottled at 40% ABV.
There’s something slightly magical about hand filling your own bottle of whisky when visiting a distillery. Straight from the cask into a bottle with your signature on it – it’s not only a memento of what was hopefully a wonderful tour, it’s also a journey into a distillery’s style and character that you can revisit at a later date. Aberlour offers two hand fill expressions, one bourbon, one oloroso sherry. Located at the back of their tasting room, you’ll have the opportunity to try both hand fills as part of their highly generous ‘Aberlour Experience’ tasting session if you visit.
As 2017 draws to a close, I thought I’d bring you one of the more exciting whiskies I sampled over the festive period in the form of a 27 year old Aberlour distilled way back in 1963. I’d had this bottle bottled stashed away for some time, awaiting the appropriate celebratory moment to crack it open and experience a little piece of distilling history. Whilst the extended family tucked into their annual Christmas Day diet of as much bargain bubbly as they could find, I located a quiet corner devoid from shredded wrapping paper, smoked salmon and charged prosecco glasses to spend some quality time with a whisky distilled whilst I was still but a gleam in the eye.
Aberlour with a cult TV reference and without the sherry - just a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel for this 10 year old. Sweet, fruity & mellow profile.
Ex-bourbon Aberlour is not bottled nearly enough for my liking – and rarely at all by the distillery itself. Here, we have an 11 year old that’s been drawn from a refill ex-bourbon barrel. Sweet, Fruity & Mellow profile.
Over to Speyside for a 16 year old Aberlour – 13 years in ex-bourbon before being re-racked into a 2nd fill toasted hoghead for a decent finishing period. View on SMWS
For a number of years, enthusiasts clamoured for Speyside’s Aberlour to release some whisky without the distillery’s usual overlay of sherry. Not that the sherry was unwanted – far from it – just that it’s always interesting to try a more ‘naked’ style of spirit occasionally. At the time, the only methods to sample ex-bourbon Aberlour were either at the distillery itself where an ex-bourbon matured ‘hand-fill’ was offered alongside a sherried sibling – or via indy bottlers. Then, back in 2019, and following many raised eyebrows over the steep price hike of A’bunadh (which was sufficiently vertical to instantly take it out of all supermarkets) came A’bunadh Alba.
As the price of whisky has steadily increased, so has the popularity of independent bottlers – in some quarters they represent a near last bastion of reasonably priced liquid to many enthusiasts. This is especially true when it comes to older expressions. Well-aged distillery OBs are now being pitched for hundreds of pounds, whereas their IB equivalents (as equivalent as one can get) can still be found for fractions of these prices. Whiskybroker is one such independent that has seen its cachet skyrocket over the last couple of years. Starting life as a small (they still are relatively) outfit that was once a go to place for whisky clubs to source bottlings, the company now has a small army of Facebook fans and its very well-priced releases are eagerly snaffled up.
Just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. Touching clearly marked wet paint, tasting yellow snow, getting into yet another protracted discussion about whisky terroir. And so it is with the announcement that researchers at Virginia Tech are utilising artificial intelligence to ‘standardise’ tasting notes. The hypothesis (which has received grant funding) being that the language used to describe whisky is “metaphorical, messy, natural language which can be a barrier for consumers and industry professionals alike to having a shared understanding of what whiskey (sic) tastes like”. All very noble. But entirely missing the point – our experience of whisky whilst often shared *is* as individual as our olfactory systems – and this freedom of expression is fundamental. A love of language, with all its vagaries is something to cherish – not something to seek to homogenise.