Thursday, September 16, 2021

Review / Aberfeldy 18 years old Côte Rôtie Finish

This new whisky is the third bottling in the French Red Wine Cask Collection from the Highland distillery of Aberfeldy. The series kicked off in 2019 with the 15 years old Pomerol Finish and was followed in 2020 by the 18 years old Pauillac Finish. This third release has been finished in Côte Rôtie wine barrels sourced by Stephanie Macleod, the Malt Master for Aberfeldy, from the famous Rhône Valley in France. The Côte Rôtie appelation is located in the northern Rhône and covers around 500 hectares. There are 60 vineyards with most growing the Syrah and Viognier grape varieties. The wines are known for their elegance and finesse with fruity and floral characteristics.

Aberfeldy is located in the village of Aberfeldy in the southern Highlands. It is owned by John Dewar & Sons, a subsidiary of the larger global Bacardi group. The distillery is engrained in the history of the Dewar's blended Scotch brand - it was founded and built by John and Tommy Dewar in 1896 to make single malt for their popular White Label. The Dewar's White Label remains one of the world's best known brands with a particular stronghold in America. The distillery has a current annual production capacity of 3.5 million and is also home to the Dewar's World of Whisky visitor experience. 

"The Côte Rôtie style of wine has got wonderful fruity and floral notes so it is just a match made in heaven for Aberfeldy. These wine casks do not come around very often so we snapped them up." 
Stephanie Macleod.
The Aberfeldy 18 years Côte Rôtie Finish is bottled at 43% ABV and will be available in selected markets including China, France, Germany, Taiwan and the USA. It is also available from the distillery's online shop. A bottle will cost £95/ €99/ $120 US. 
Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep coppery gold and the nose is rich and sweet with a distinct fruity edge. Aromas of caramel and golden syrup mingle with juicy dried fruits (think of raisin and sultana especially), baked apple and dried blood orange. Later aromas of milk chocolate, orchard blossom and malted biscuits also come through.

On the palate this whisky has a mouthcoating feel and is deliciously sweet and fruity to begin with, before turning more woody and savoury. Again there is caramel and golden syrup notes early on and these are joined by heather honey, toffee and vanilla custard. The fruitiness is again driven by juicy dried fruits with the raisin, sultana and dried orange again prominent. Further dried fruit is present in the form of cranberry and apricot. Baked apple with butterscotch and cinnamon sauce is evident and adds to the richness. Woody spices and warming baking spices begin to evolve and take the palate in a different direction. Oak tannins, cedarwood and more cinnamon start this, and develop towards leather, cigar box and bitter chocolate. The whisky then becomes drier and woodier with time.

The finish continues this theme with the tannins from the wine barrels now in full control. The savoury spices and woody notes take grip and linger. Malted cereal and cocoa powder are also detected here.

What's the verdict?

This Aberfeldy is a delicious whisky but one that is definitely a game of two halves. This is especially true on the palate. The first half is all about the sweet characteristics and fruity elements, while the second half brings the savoury and woody notes to the fore. It is an interesting journey that the whisky takes you on but you cannot help but wish that the sweetness held on just that bit longer.

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