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.
The bottling, from 1991 comes from Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection – and those interested in reading more about Scotland’s oldest independent bottler should check out this recent piece by Thijs Klaverstijn which provides a brief history of the bottler and it’s 175 year pedigree (which has been far from plain sailing at times). To put this Aberlour into a historical context - it was distilled a month after the Kennedy assassination, and bottled in the year that brought Terminator 2: Judgment Day to cinemas. Blimey.
Nose: Old, polished and a touch vegetal. We’re immediately greeted by heavy varnish and polished old wood, but behind this is a rather sooty, dunnage warehouse style profile that is a far cry from a modern, fruit-driven Aberlour. It’s highly earthy with damp soils and chalks – akin to a musty wine cellar. Boiled vegetables and overt nuttiness provide deeper complexity. Aged – yes, but behind the polished wood this is highly spirit-driven.
Taste: Earthy, but now baring fruits. Soils and nuttiness and ancient rooty wood lead off again, but are now joined by some sweeter fruity elements – apples, apricots and peaches. There’s underlying grassiness here as well as some minerals – soot and coal dust – but there’s no peat or smoke here.
Finish: Medium in length and delivering bitter oak and woody nuttiness. Quite drying at this point.
This 1963 Aberlour is not going to be to everyone’s taste. It’s earthy to the point of seeming almost completely organic, and is largely devoid of sweetness – it’s a million miles away from what the current-day Aberlour is producing (generally heavily sherried, rich and fruity expressions). This bottling not only transports our taste buds to the Aberlour distillate of the 1960’s, but also presents it in a form where that spirit is allowed to shine. There’s no over-wrought oak here - things were simpler then.