Three words you don’t hear next to each other too often: single, cask and Aberfeldy. When Barry mentioned this was on the docket I got a bit excited because like many of the distilleries we dive into Aberfeldy is a distillery I haven’t had a wide variety of… till now.
We gathered at our gracious host’s beautiful home for kosher food and Scottish Whisky. Like with the Glen Elgin tasting I conspired with the head Malt Nut Barry to sneak in an old blended whisky where one of the main malts in the mix is the distillery we’re exploring that night. In this case it was Dewar’s, but instead of just putting a Dewar’s from the 70s in the mix I also brought a current Dewar’s to try blindly side by side and see how it stood out in a sea of Aberfeldy. Both were decanted into generic Scotch bottles before the tasting so they’d blend right in with the rest.
What I found most interesting about the tasting were the heard murmurings of Dewar’s for 2B before the reveal came around. Its distinct character easily stood out, but next to all these Aberfeldy’s it was also easy to find the similarities. It was a really fun and educational event, as always, now let’s see how it all shook out.
Malt Nuts Aberfeldy Blind Tasting Round Breakdown
- 12+ years and at 46%
- Wild Card round
- Cask Strength
Now on to the Aberfeldy!
Malt Nuts Aberfeldy: 12+ years and at 46%
1A: Connoisseurs Choice Aberfeldy 16 years (99-15): 46%
- Nose: Malt, fruit, butterscotch, vanilla, nougat and a touch of dark fruit and spice.
- Palate: Malt, fruit, vanilla, touch hay with a light spice and citrus peels.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, spice, taffy and vanilla.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) A funny thing about blind tastings is that when you taste a good one you cross your fingers and hope it’s yours… I went home happy that night. A nicely balanced fruity malt.
1B: Montgomerie’s Aberfeldy 18 years (96-15): 46% – “Oak” Cask
- Nose: Fruity and malty with light notes of waxy citrus, banana and brown sugar.
- Palate: Fruit, malt and cocoa with light notes of dark fruit and spice.
- Finish: Medium -> Malt, Tootsie Rolls, spice and fruit.
- Overall: B- (80-82) An interesting whisky and tasting this one right next to the first one showed just how different the whisky could be right out of the gate. This one was much lighter and more waxy.
1C: Chieftain’s Aberfeldy 12 years (98-11): 46% – Hogshead
- Nose: Malt, fruit, toffee, almonds, dried cherries and a light spice.
- Palate: Malt, wood, fruit, hay, and a light bit of smoke and minerality.
- Finish: Short -> Malt, fruit, dry “olde time” candy and a touch of smoke.
- Overall: B (83-86) A decent malt overall and the touch of smoke added a fun dimension to the whisky.
I need to take a quick break and point out that this was one of the best pace-setting starts to a tasting I’ve done at Malt Nuts. Three solid representations of Aberfeldy at three different levels (B-, B & B+) that set fantastic reference points for the rest of the night. It was all by chance, but what a happy coincidence!
Malt Nuts Aberfeldy: Wild Card Round
2A: Signatory Aberfeldy 12 years (98-10): 43% – Hogshead Cask
- Nose: Pixie Sitx, citric acid, malt, fruit and minerality.
- Palate: Fruit, cocoa, toffee and a light bit of spice and mint.
- Finish: Medium -> Hay-like malt, spice, mint and mineral water.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Some weird notes in there I didn’t care for and I initially thought this was a blend and Barry had found another Aberfeldy-centric blend to include. Light and watery overall, but it does open up a wee bit and get a touch fruitier with some time.
2B: Current Dewar’s White Label: 40%
- Nose: CARAMEL, fruit, smoke, toasted grain and light notes of dried dark fruit and “sweetness”.
- Palate: Tastes like a young grain whisky with a bit of smoke and fruit.
- Finish: Short -> Fruit, alcohol and grain.
- Overall: C (73-76) I didn’t care for this one too much. It was young and grainy. The smoke and touch of fruit was the only saving grace.
2C: 1970s Dewar’s White Label: 43.4%
- Nose: Spice, malt, caramel, smoke, fruit, old-bottle-effect, dried apricots and a light bit of bubblegum.
- Palate: OBE, malt, spice, caramel, smoke, dried dark fruit and apricots. No bubblegum on the palate.
- Finish: Long -> Caramel, banana chips and dried apricots.
- Overall: B (83-86) This is actually tasty stuff; I almost gave it a B+. Tasting this next to the current DWL was jarring and showed a stark difference between the two. It was easy to tell which one it was because of that OBE (old bottle effect); it’s an unmistakable character you come to expect if you’re a dusty hunter, but everything under it was quite nice.
2D: The Classic Cask Aultmore 15 years (97-12): 46% – “Oak” Cask
- Nose: Juicy Fruit & Zebra gum style tropical fruit, malt, powdered sugar, vanilla and a touch of dark sweets.
- Palate: Malt, caramel, vanilla, fruit, golden raisins and a touch of spice.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit, malt, light caramel, soda water and cocoa.
- Overall: B (83-86) I liked it, but it stuck out like a sore thumb and turned out to be something we’d tasted before. I was thinking it was aged in a weird cask or it wasn’t an Aberfeldy at all and Barry was throwing us a curve ball. Turned out to be the latter and Barry snuck this in because Aultmore is often said to be similar to Aberfeldy… not when you’re tasting a bunch of them in a row it’s not.
2E: Dewar’s 12 Years: 43%
- Nose: Sherry-like sweetness, malt, dark fruit, oily, dried strawberries and a light bit of dark sweets.
- Palate: Fruit, sherry-like sweetness, malt, cocoa, nuts and a bit of spice and citrus peel.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit, malt, cocoa and spice that fades to mineral water and toasted grain.
- Overall: B (83-86) This was a big surprise to me that it was an older Dewar’s 12 year. I thought it was just a funky Aberfeldy and I didn’t pick up any smoke so I didn’t think this could have possibly been another Dewar’s. It was fun to taste this older 86 proof (current is 80) version of the Dewar’s 12.
This wild card round was a lot of fun; really interesting to see the whisky presented in this context.
Malt Nuts Aberfeldy: Cask Strength
3A: Aberfeldy 17 Years (96-12): 61.4% – Hogshead
- Nose: Fruit, malt, cinnamon, touch of honey and spice with a bit of toasted grain.
- Palate: Fruit, malt, cinnamon and bubblegum with a light perfumy herbal character.
- Finish: Medium -> Rosemary, spice and a light perfumy floral-like aspect.
- Overall: B- (80-81) / C+ (77-79) Some people have sulfur sensitivities, some have sherry sensitivities and I have a perfumy sensitivity and while everything under that perfumy character was nice it kept it from a higher score for my tastes. That nice, but perfumy character kept me waffling on a B-/C+ so I left it as both. It might open up and blow off with a bit of time and if it did it’d be a lovely whisky.
3B: Gordon & Macphail Aberfeldy 19 years (90-09): 60.4%
- Nose: Peat, malt, dark sweets, citrus, spice, dark fruit and a light bit of minerality.
- Palate: Peat, malt, spice, dark fruit, sherry-like sweetness and a bit of Canadian mints and bubblegum at the end.
- Finish: Long -> Fruit, malt, peat, dark fruit and minerality.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Wish this one would have opened up more with water, but regardless this was a tasty whisky and was edging towards an A- each time I revisited it. Needed a bit more complexity to hit that next level, but a daily drinker for sure.
3C: Cadenhead’s Aberfeldy 17 years: 57.5% – “Oak”
- Nose: Malt, fruit, wood, nuts and citrus peels with touches of dried dark fruit, minerals and a light solvent-like note.
- Palate: Fruit, spice, malt, citrus peels, vanilla and a bit of dark sweets.
- Finish: Medium -> Fruit, caramel, coconut and mint.
- Overall: B (83-86) One of the most interesting whiskies of the night. A weird array of sensations that somehow worked together. An oddball, in all the right ways, for sure.
3D: A.D. Rattray Aberfeldy 18 years (94-13): 54.9% – Hogshead
- Nose: Fruit, dark sweets, malt, graham, cocoa and a dusting of spice.
- Palate: Fruit, malt, dark sweets and a bit of honey and nuts.
- Finish: Medium -> Spice, mint, malt and fruit.
- Overall: B (83-86) Good but not amazing. Definitely something I’d like to sip on now and then – water doesn’t open it much.
As always it was a fun night of drinking, chatting and laughing with the Malt Nuts. I still feel honored they’ve allowed me into their group and that once a month I get the opportunity to break bread with this group of well drank folks and explore the world of Scotch Whisky one distillery at a time. It’s always highly educational to be able to sit down and taste through so many different expressions from a distillery and get to know the character of a single distillery on a deeper level and hear what others have to say.
Till the next one, cheers!