An Informal Aberlour Tasting
I had a bottle of Aberlour 12yr last year, which I quite enjoyed. Recently, I picked up a bottle of 10yr, which I thought was pretty decent, if showing its immaturity. I have been talking with some others about a taste comparison between the 12yr and 16yr Double Cask expressions from Aberlour, which was on my mind when I went by the package store today. So there I was, looking for yet another older vintage of the Glenrothes when what before my wondering eyes did appear? Aberlour 15yr, Sherry Finish! I had never SEEN this bottle before!
One of the things I love about Aberlour 12yr is the wonderfully sweet sherry finish on an otherwise smooth as silk whisky. I could only imagine what the 15yr sherry finish would hold for me. However, that wasn't all I would find in store for me. They also had the 12yr and 16yr, which I had been wanting to try. At this point, I pulled these three bottles off the shelf, and placed them up at the register, asking the purveyor to hold on to them while I kept looking. After scrounging through their vast inventory, the shop-keep pointed me towards a glass case where the Jack Daniels Single Barrel whisky was stored. He said he had one more Aberlour bottle (which I figured was the A'Bunadh.)
It was not the A'Bunadh. It was the 18yr! Now, you all might be thinking, "so, you found the ENTIRE core lineup of Aberlour plus a specialty bottling." But you see, I have never even seen two of these bottles ANYWHERE, so it was a pretty huge deal for me. I decided to go for it, and put the 18yr up on the counter with the others!
Here's the lineup:
After leaving the shop, I took all of my newly acquired goodies to my favorite cigar shop, where I was going to enjoy a few hours with a nice cigar. I was planning on taking my 10yr up to the shop to enjoy, so now I had the complete lineup (absent the A'Bunadh) and was on my way to a location where good-hearted and jovial gentleman go to hang out and have a good time.
After parking my car, I popped the trunk and brought in my big box of booze, ready to take my fellow travelers on a trip through the Aberlour distillery, if they would indulge me. Of course I was able to find some willing compatriots, some who made all five stops and others who took a short-cut. Of those who made comments and shared their opinions, the following represents the collective reviewing of the Aberlour range:
Aberlour 10yr Pure Single Highland Malt:
A bit immature, with a big sherry finish. Rough around the edges, showing a bit of its youth. Nice flavor coming through, with sweetness on the tongue. Frankly, the difference in price between the 10 and 12 year is but a pittance to pay for the difference between the two. Night and day.
Aberlour 12yr Double Cask:
Smooth and sweet. Wonderfully crafted to deliver a big, robust sherry flavor up front. However, the finish was non-existent. It finished so smooth and so fast with zero spice. One reviewer stated it was very complex, building with flavors. I didn't necessarily agree, as I tend to view this whisky as a smooth sherry monster, with little complexity.
Aberlour 15yr Sherry Finish:
Wow! Now this was something all-together different. Spices come out on the palate and in the long finish. The sweetness hit the middle of the palate, with a nice plum fruitiness. Not so much a tip of the tongue sweetness, but more a wine-like taste, that was very good. This was a great fan-favorite. I enjoyed it very much as well.
Aberlour 16yr Double Cask:
Now we're talking! Sherry sweetness on the tip of the tongue, with a nice cinnamon spice in the back. This whisky is much smoother than the 10yr, and even smoother than the 12yr with a flavor a little less robust than the 12yr, but very refined. This was a fantastic whisky, with a great finish, sending sweet honey notes up on the finish along with a good bit of spice. Very nice...
Aberlour 18yr Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
SMOOOOOOOOTH! This whisky slips over the palate and down the pipe, delivering sweet honey notes on the tip of the tongue. The finish is wonderful, with a little less spice than the 16yr, but with plenty of wonderful sweet aromas at the end. After tasting this whisky, the 16yr actually seemed rough!
If you enjoy the 12yr, the 16yr is a wonderful treat. However, the 18yr just takes you to new heights. It really is a masterfully crafted whisky. I would not have been surprised if many in the shop would not have been able to tell the difference between the 16yr and 18yr, but to my surprise, every one of them could, commenting that the 18yr was incredibly smooth. Now, this was not a blind taste test, so they could have been BS-ing me. But after tasting these whiskies, I believe them. The 18yr is just really that good.
Fantastic write up - thanks! Aberlour is a great brand. I've had the 12yo, A'Bunadh and 16yo. Here in the frozen south, a dram of the 16 yo double cask is perfectly fitting for this type of weather! But, now I know I need to try that 18 yo! Sounds incredible. :D
Frankly, I think of one thing when I taste this whisky. I am reminded of my sister-in-law asking if I had anything else that was similar to the Balvenie 21yr Port Wood. If I had this bottle with me, this is what I would have given her. It is just as smooth, sweet on the lips, and has a great (but not powerful) finish. While the flavor is slightly different (sherry v. port), the body and characteristics of the whisky is similar enough to make a comparison.
Here's a full review on the 18yr:
This whisky is a 100% sherry-aged with an ABV of 43%. The color is a "bright orangey amber" according to M. Jackson's Complete Guide to Scotch Whisky, and I would agree with this description.
Nose: Honey, cinnamon spice, toffee and warmed milk chocolate. Ripe peaches cut up and sprinkled with sugar, served on an oak cutting board. This is delightful.
Body: Medium body, and cool in the mouth. Rich.
Palate: Building spices, with a sweet nectar flavor. Honey, marmalade, with just the slightest bit of oak. I'm not usually a fan of oaked whiskies, but this is not one of them. This whisky just has the faintest hint of oak, reminding you that this whisky was indeed aged for 18yrs in oak casks. I could hold this whisky in my mouth for ages it is so good, except for the fact that the spice literally continues to build and build and build! Outstanding.
Finish: Absolutely smooth! It just slipped down the pipe as easy as water, but with a delightful finish filled with spices and sweetness.
I absolutely love this whisky! It is such a wonderful experience - from the nose, to the palate, to the finish. This is a superbly crafted malt, bringing everything I love about Speyside whiskies to my glass.
Here's an in-depth review of the 16yr:
The Aberlour 16yr is a 43% ABV whisky double cask matured in both ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts, which gives it the signature "depth of character ... distinctive fruitiness and spiciness" of the distillery. The sherry gives the whisky a deep "rich golden amber" color according to the distillery, giving it a beautiful color in the glass.
Nose: Rich sherry, honey, and fruitcake. Cinnamon spice (and everything nice!) and cloves coming out. The nose is very similar to the 12yr and 18yr, in that they are all heavily sherried. The difference would be that the 16yr has a very spicy profile in addition to the sherry notes. Being a lover of sherry-finished whiskies, I could sit here and nose this sweet dram all night! Mmmmmm....
Body: Medium, rich.
Palate: Spice hits the palate with sweet fruitcake. Honey spice overflows, delivering just a hint of roasted oak in the back. There is just the faintest trace of "wax" that coats the tongue. This is barely noticeable, but I did pick it up. There is an orangey citrus flavor under the sweet sherry. The combination is nice. Reminds me of a soft-candy orange. The flavor of this whisky is not as good as the 18yr in the mouth, but the finish is spectacular!
Finish: Incredible! Booming spice with billowing sherry. A bit of roasted macadamia nut, but just a hint. The orange marmalade comes out a bit, rounding the flavors. There is just a bit of dryness coming out at the end, getting your attention and reminding you that you are drinking whisky.
Obviously this isn't as smooth as the 18yr, but not everyone wants a whisky that is so smooth you don't even feel it slip over the tongue and down the pipe! The 16yr brings just enough dry-spice to make you sit up and take notice, but smooth enough to make you appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the whisky. This really is a fine dram. I plan to keep it stocked in my cabinet from now on, as it represents a fantastic value at $54.
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