Aberfeldy is one of the most visited whisky distilleries in Scotland, despite the Aberfeldy range of single malt not featuring in the world's Top 20 best sellers. Its Highland location and relative proximity to Edinburgh and Glasgow help a lot but the main reason for its popularity is the distillery's importance to Dewar's, one of the most popular blended Scotch brands. Aberfeldy is one of the signature single malts in the Dewar's range and this is reflected in the Dewar's World of Whisky visitor centre being at the distillery.
Aberfeldy was founded in 1896 by John Dewar & Sons and was built to secure a consistent supply of single malt for their increasingly popular Dewar's blended Scotch, sales of which were booming at the time. It was designed by the legendary Victorian architect Charles Doig, who was responsible for the construction of numerous new distilleries in the Highlands and Speyside regions during the late 19th century. The distillery remains under the ownership of John Dewar & Sons to this day, although the company is now part of the larger Bacardi Brown-Forman group.
|Original distillery drawings by Charles Doig.|
As we waited for our tour to begin, we tucked in to a hearty lunch served up by the cafe at the visitor centre. This space also featured the shop, which featured Aberfeldy and Dewar's core range products plus a number of special editions and other whiskies from Bacardi's portfolio, and a bar. The first part of the tour was a short film about the history of Dewar's and the role of Aberfeldy, which was hosted and narrated by eminent whisky journalist Charlie Maclean. A number of tours that we have taken have started with a brand film, but few have been shown in a plush mini cinema setting like at Aberfeldy.
Once the informative film was over we moved through to an impressive exhibition that showcased a large amount of Dewar's brand memorabilia through the ages including many vintage posters, documents and marketing tools. Amongst the fantastic selection of items was a recreation of the office of John Dewar, the founder of the Dewar's brand and Aberfeldy distillery, complete with some of his possessions and original company paperwork.
|John Dewar's desk|
The Dewar's whisky brand was founded by John Dewar in 1846 and was sold from his small grocery and wine merchant shop in Perth. The brand grew rapidly especially once John's sons, John Alexander and Tommy, took over. It was them that took the decision to build Aberfeldy and its location within a reasonable traveling from Perth. Dewar's is now the best selling Scotch whisky in the USA and one of the top five best selling Scotch blends in the world. We could have literally spent double the time in there but well trained tour guides wait for no man, even whisky bloggers ...
The first stop on the tour was the mill, which grinds the malted barley to the correct consistency for whisky making. This was hemmed in to a cramped room that seemed to have been built around it and felt slightly claustrophobic. Next to this was a large hopper for malt storage prior to the milling. We moved up a set of metal stairs to the left of the mill and up to another small room containing the stainless steel mash tun.
|The mash tun|
|The wooden washbacks|
|The Aberfeldy stillroom|
|Water and Aberfeldy 12yo|
|Karen fills her bottle|
Aberfeldy is open all year round, although hours are reduced during winter months. They run a variety of tours from standard (£9.50 per head) to connoisseur level (£25 per head). The standard tour is also operated in seven languages. For opening hours, times and further information on tours please visit the Dewar's website or contact the distillery visitor centre directly on (+44) 01887-822010.