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.
One such seemingly ‘too good to be true’ bottling from Whiskybroker was released earlier in the summer. A 25 year old sherry matured Aberlour for (if I remember correctly) under £80. Pretty much the same price that you’ll now pay for the official NAS A’bunadh. Crazy. Drawn from cask #3921 which was laid down in 1992, just 276 bottles were produced at 52.7% ABV (in two batched, one small of 60 and a second, larger or 216) – neither lasted long.
Nose: An appealing combination of boiled sugars and brittles with hedgerow fruits. Toffee and butterscotch provide confectionary sweetness – they’re joined by raspberries, blackberries and cranberries – a combination of fresh, preserved and reduced to jam. Additional sherried delights take the form of chopped walnuts, tobacco leaf, sponge fingers and a dusty spiciness – cinnamon in particular. In the background there’s a slight earthy floralness – dried cut grass and pressed flowers. Reduction reveals more woodiness – vanilla, green apples, crème caramel, and melted butter.
Taste: A good translation from nose to mouth, with an arrival that has just the right amount of weight – not quite syrupy but certainly close. Sugar reductions (toffee’s, caramels etc) are now interspersed with dry spices – cinnamon, ginger and a sprinkle of salt. These temper the sherry-driven flavours – walnuts, chocolate sponge, fruit cake (with rum-soaked raisins) and fresh coffee grounds. The result is rather clever – defined sweet, sherry flavour, but without any sense of feeling bloated or over-laden. In the mid to back palate the underlying earthiness of the Aberlour spirit is perceptible with moist soils and wet potters clay – it’s joined by our first hint of the long maturation this whisky has been subjected to – drying oak and tannins.
Finish: Medium to long with caramel sweetness, cinnamon spiciness, vanilla pods and dry oak.
Like many of Whiskybroker’s releases, price-wise, this release seemed like a ludicrously good proposition. Whereas some of the independent bottlers products are great value, but only so-so in quality, this 25 year old totally delivers the goods. I’d described it as sherry-driven, but not a sherrybomb – nevertheless, those of a sweeter inclination will no doubt love it. Sold out (very quickly) but well worth keeping an eye out for.
With thanks to Lee Macneil for the sample.