Monday, February 24, 2014

Have just tried - Aberlour 18 years old

Aberlour is one of the best selling single malts in the world and currently sits within the global top ten for volume of sales. It is also the top selling single malt whisky brand in France, which is the biggest whisky market in the world. Aberlour is also popular in the UK and southern Europe, and the core range consists of the best selling 10 years old, plus two versions at 12 (one of which is non chill-filtered), 15, 16 and this 18 years old. These are joined once or twice a year by a cask strength single batch whisky named A’bunadh (pronounced a-boona).

The Aberlour distillery is located in the heart of the picturesque Speyside village of the same name. The village sits on the banks of the River Spey and was founded in 1826 by James Gordon.  It is currently owned by Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard group who took over the distillery in the 1970s, and has an annual production capacity of 3.8 million litres. In 1879, the distillery was completely destroyed by fire and was re-built on a different site at the opposite end of the village by a wealthy local man called James Fleming. The old distillery site is now the location of the famous Walker's shortbread factory.

Aberlour is probably best known for its use of quality ex-sherry casks for the maturation of its whisky. It is these casks which have been predominantly used in this 18 years old expression, which was only officially released in the UK for the first time in late 2013.  The whisky is bottled at 43% ABV and is available in selected specialist whisky retailers at a cost of £75-80.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose has a lovely warming richness and sweetness to it.  The initial aromas are of malty cereals, caramel and dark dried fruits (think of raisins especially).  With time, other aromas come through and add to the complex nature of the whisky - candied orange peel, dried green apple, almonds, milk chocolate, cinnamon and a hint of black treacle.

On the palate this whisky feels incredibly soft, viscous and mouth coating.  There is an initial sweet brown sugar note that gives way to intense juicy dark dried fruits - these include raisins, figs and prunes, along with some dried apple and a lovely hint of something tropical later on (think of mango or papaya).  Then come further characteristics that add depth, complexity and warmth.  These include the caramel and burnt orange from the nose, creamy milk chocolate, vanilla, toasted almonds and hazelnuts, plus hints of gingerbread and menthol.  Increasing drying wood spices also play a key role and are most reminiscent of cinnamon.

The finish is long, sweet and warming.  Once the sweet elements, and the sugary caramel and dried fruits in particular, begin to fade then the woodier and spicier notes come to the fore.  This adds a nice balance and dryness, and a hint of slightly bitter nuttiness.

What's the verdict?
The Aberlour 18 years old is a very good example of an older single malt in the richer and sweeter style.  It has plenty of depth, character and complexity but without being too sweet, cloying or overpowering as some of the whiskies with a heavy ex-sherry cask influence can be.  It also represents good value for money against similar ex-sherry cask products from other distilleries and is well worth searching out.  Delicious.

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