Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle
I had to go back through our records to confirm this, but today’s malt is another first, it is the first time we have featured a whisky from the Aberlour Distillery in any of our five editions of the Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar. Not only that, but today’s Aberlour is in itself a curiosity, atypical of the distillery’s house style and also one of the oldest bottlings we’ve ever seen from the distillery. But more on this unique whisky below, first, to the distillery.
Aberlour Distillery as we know it today was founded by a businessman and banker, James Fleming in the town of the same name in 1879. It was not the first “Aberlour Distillery”, the original one was built on the same site in 1826 by Peter Weir and James Gordon. The distillery was operated by lessees James and John Grant until 1933 when they left to build their own distillery, Glen Grant, in Rothes. James Fleming was a well-respected member of his community, and lived by his family motto, which dates from the time of Robert the Bruce “let the deed show”. When a local boy drowned crossing the Spey, which was without a bridge at the time, he had one built at his own expense without expectation of reward.
In 1879 the first of a couple of fires ravaged the distillery destroying much of the site. Fleming rebuilt the distillery near St. Drostan’s Well, named after an early monk linked with St. Columba. The site’s use for brewing and distilling may have gone back even further to Druidic times. The distillery was sold to Robert Thorne & Sons Ltd. in 1892, who expanded it as the boom in whisky production took hold. Six years later it burned to the ground. The famous distillery architect Charles Doig was brought in to consult on the reconstruction. During the Second World War, when the distillery was only intermittently in production, the locals are said to have smuggled wash up the Aberlour Burn to distill hidden behind Linn Falls.
In 1945 Aberlour was purchased by Campbell Distillers. They closed the floor maltings in 1962 and doubled the capacity from two to four stills in 1973. The following year the distillery was purchased by Pernod Ricard, and so began the single malt’s long association with France where it is the bestselling single malt. The first edition of Aberlour A’Bunadh, ‘the original’ in Scots Gaelic, was released in 2000. The cask strength sherry matured single malt is a staple of any good whisky shop (it is currently sold out in Alberta).
As eluded to above, today’s Aberlour is a little unusual. All distillery bottlings of Aberlour are at least partly if not entirely matured in sherry casks. Independent bottlings, which are few and far between, are the only time you typically see the whisky bottled from only American oak. This First Editions Aberlour is our 2nd single cask from the Speyside distillery, and our first ever exclusive single cask under the First Editions label. First Editions is a Hunter Laing brand, whom we introduced on Day 4 of this year’s Whisky Advent with the Old Malt Cask Mortlach 11 year KWM Cask. Only 151 bottles were filled from a Refill Hogshead cask, Ref: HL14881, bottled at 58.8% after 23 years.
There is something curious about the whisky though. Aberlour is typically unpeated, but this Aberlour has a prominent smoky-peaty component. So was it produced from a batch of peated malt, or matured in a peated cask? We will never know, but the whisky is lovely, and nearly sold out! Only 44 of 155 bottles are left!
Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle
First Editions Aberlour 1995 – 58.8% – 23 Year – Refill Hogshead -
Andrew’s Tasting Note
Nose: old English butterscotch, tarte tatin, pecan pie and candied nuts; the nose is big and oily with candied orange; polished Italian leather shoes, brandy soaked cherries and freshly opened cedar cigar box; is there a slight trace of peat?
Palate: sweet, fruity and coating and them boom… wow this packs some power; more old English butterscotch, tarte tatin and candied nuts but also creme brule, ginger-molasses cookies and treacle tarts; leather and tobacco are there too with building spice; as it settles down (and or the palate adjusts) more delicate tropical fruits emerge: mango and papaya; late chocolate and prominent licorice; there is also a delicate thread of smoke?!
Finish: long, sweet and very fruity; builds into a crescendo of lovely spices, tobacco, leather and tropical fruits; warming, silky and smooth.
Comment: this is a gentle beast of a whisky; the complexity is nearly off the charts including a tantalizing trace of smoke; this is a bold but layered Aberlour, very different from the sherried house style of the Distillery bottlings.” - $180 for the 700mL version (while it lasts!) / $17 for the 50mL mini bottle
Playing catch-up on our 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar?