Scores & tasting notes:
Aberfeldy (Pronounced: AberFELdy)
Midlands (some say Eastern Highlands)
56°37'10.80" N, 3°51'53.12" W
Blair Athol, Edradour, Glenturret
1896 (actual whisky production started in 1898)
2 wash stills & 2 spirit stills
3,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Bacardi > John Dewar & Sons (since 1998)
Aberfeldy, Perthshire, PH15 2EB, Scotland
Yes; it's called 'Dewar's World of Whisky'
Yes; 12 and 21 years old (plus some single casks)
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
The Aberfeldy distillery lies in the North of the Midlands in the
very heart of Scotland. Well, the 'geographical' heart anyway;
the Speyside area a little further north is considered to be the
real heartland of whisky country. Aberfeldy distillery was built
on the south bank of the Tay in 1896 by John Dewar & Sons.
It is a (relatively) recent distillery too - it started producing
Scotch malt whisky in 1898 - little more than a century ago.
The Aberfeldy distillery that still stands today wasn't the first
distillery by that name. One Peter McIntosh and John McDonald
were involved with another 'Aberfeldy' distillery that supposedly
operated somewhere in Perthshire in the early 19th century.
Most sources put Aberfeldy in the Midlands but according to some people it's actually an Eastern Highlands distillery. The water source of Aberfeldy, the Pitilie Burn, was also used by the appropriately named 'Pitilie' distillery that used to operate somewhere nearby between 1825 and 1867. Bottles from that previous distillery are hard to find these days ;-)
Tommy Dewar, one of the founders and an enthusiastic promoter of the blend by the same name, was the third person in Britain ever to buy a car. He did so shortly after Thomas Lipton (the guy who supposedly invented tea) and HRH the Prince of Wales (who didn't invent anything at all, apparantly).
Wartime has always spelled trouble for the
Aberfeldy distillery. The distillery was closed
in 1917 because the government decided
that the stocks of grain should be saved to
provide food some time before the end of
World War I. Whisky production at the
Aberfeldy distillery resumed in 1919, but it
had to close its doors once again during
the second World War. Fortunately for us,
malt lovers, Aberfeldy prospered after that,
helped by the fact that it was conveniently
located near the Aberfeldy-Perth railway.
The distillery was rebuilt and refitted with four new stills in 1972/'73.
In 1998 John Dewar & Sons (a Bacardi subsidiary) bought Aberfeldy
from United Distillers (Diageo). At the same time Aultmore, Brackla and
Craigellachie switched owners, expanding Bacardi's portfolio. Aberfeldy
still plays a big role in today's 'Dewar's' and 'White Label' blends. Too
bad, because most malts I sampled performed quite well on their own.
2006 - By now I've tried quite a few recommendable and highly recommendable Aberfeldies, but I'm afraid that I have relatively little experience with recent bottlings. Most of
the Aberfeldy bottles that impressed me were independent bottlings; the 12yo and 25yo OB's that were released in the early noughties didn't tickle my fancy very much.
I've tried disappointing bottlings by 'Master of Malts' and in G&M's 'Connoisseurs Choice' series as well.
2009 - Until recently, Dewar's (a daughter company of Bacardi and the current owners of the Aberfeldy distillery) did not participate at all in the annual Malt Maniacs Awards whisky competition. I'm happy to report that Dewar's decided to pick up the gauntlet in 2009, but it's still a little early to make grandiose claims about the overall quality of the Aberfeldy single malt whisky at this point. So, I would suggest that you take the tasting notes at the bottom of this page with a few grains of salt; many of those tasting notes are more than a decade old...
2012 - I haven't personally seen a lot of 'Aberfeldy' adverts in recent years, but in December, Bacardi brand Dewar's launched its first advertising campaign in five years in the USA. The campaign is targeting 25- to 30-year-old men. According to Jeff Weiss, a partner at advertising agency Opperman Weiss: "We're aiming to appeal to a guy who is ready to stop wearing his baseball hat backwards." And following Diageo's lead, they are using sex appeal to help sell their liquor. While Diageo used a big-breasted American actress to push up their Johnnie Walker brand, Dewar's ads feature English actress Claire Forlani, draped in a fur coat while lounging in a Louis XIV chair.
And of course, by "dating a bottle of whisky" I mean "establishing in which year the whisky was bottled"...
Many independent bottlers display the year in which a malt whisky (often a bottling from a single cask) was
bottled, but that's usually not the case with the so-called official bottlings that are released by the owner.
As far as I know, no official bottlings of Aberfeldy were produced during the reign of UD in the 1970's and
1980's. That changed in the 1990's; a Flora & Fauna bottling was released in 1991. That was a semi-official
bottling, but the best you could hope for until Dewar's bought Aberfeldy from United Distillers in 1998.
Dewar's released a 12yo official bottling of Aberfeldy in a tall, slender bottle with a bold, green banner with
the name "Aberfeldy" above the label. The label itself (and the green tube that came with a bottle) proudly
carried a portrait of John Dewar. A 25yo in a tall bottle with a white label was introduced not too long
afterwards. The packaging was changed in 2005 when Dewar's introduced a shorter, stockier bottle with
a cream label for the 12yo. At the same time they replaced the 25yo with a 21yo malt whisky expression.
1) The brand name 'Aberfeldy' suggests that there used to be a Pictish settlement in this area.
The picts were the people that inhabited Scotland (then known as 'Pictavia of 'Pictland') before a tribe from Ireland known as the 'Scotti' invaded the area. Names with the prefixes 'Aber' (Aberlour, Aberfeldy), 'Lhan' (Lhanbryde), 'Pit' (Pitlochry) or 'Fin' (Finlaggan) indicate the existence of Pictish settlements in the area.
2) The Aberfeldy distillery is home to Dewar's World of Whisky - a 'brand centre' for the Dewar's whiskies.
A similar set-up can be found at the Glenturret distillery that houses the Famous Grouse Experience.
3) Sir Thomas Robert Dewar is quoted as saying 'Nothing deflates so fast as a punctured reputation'.
Admittedly, this has little to do with the Aberfeldy distillery specifically, but there you go...
4) Dewar's is one of the biggest whisky producers in Scotland. However, unlike many other large whisky producers, their focus has been firmly on blended Scotch whisky . Less than 1% of their output is to bottled as a single malt like Aberfeldy or Craigellachie. However, within the blended whisky segment Dewar's have shifted their focus towards the premium segment with sales of the entry level blended whiskies dropping in Europe and the USA.
5) Aberfeldy is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded during the 'whisky boom' of the
late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Craigellachie, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
Aberfeldy 14yo 1997/2011 (58.1%, OB, Sherry Finish, C#3618, 185 Bts.)
Nose: A lovely rich and expressive sherry nose. Cinnamon? Settles down a little after a minute of breathing.
And then it opens up again. Some organics and leather are added to the composition. A nasal adventure.
Taste: Chewy with exactly the right amount of gunpowder and tobacco on the palate for me. Hot finish.
Perhaps not the most well balanced malt whisky, but it's right up my alley. Perhaps just a tad too dry.
Score: 87 points - this is one of those single malt whiskies that you can spend an entire evening with.
Aberfeldy 18yo (54.9%, OB, Chris Anderson's Cask, 248 Bts, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Light and a little 'winey'. Fruit, diesel oil and some spices after a minute. Perhaps a whiff of dust?
Taste: Compact fruitiness. Not a lot of definition or development. Fairly subdued finish. A tad perfumy?
Score: 81 points - I'd recommend it, but the hint of perfume keeps it in the lower 80's for me.
Aberfeldy 12yo (40%, OB, Stocky bottle with cream label, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Gentle, light and accessible. Softly sweet like flower nectar. Honeysuckle? Veggier undercurrent.
Spices in the background. The complexity disappears after a few minutes, keeping it out of the 80's for me.
Taste: Slightly oily start, not quite as sweet as the nose. Malty. This almost feels like an overproof whisky.
Sweeter in the solid centre though, with the oil moving to the background. A trace of coffee? Fairly dry finish.
Score: 79 points - pleasant but not terribly expressive in the nose. Too bad it doesn't have more staying power.
Aberfeldy 21yo (40%, OB, Stocky bottle with grey label, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Polished with subtle fruits (citrus) in the background. Hints of oil and something 'veggy'. Beer?
Pleasant enough, but this one earns most points on the palate. Faintest hint of sulphur?
Taste: Smooth start, powering up in the sweet, malty centre. Very drinkable, almost like a grain whisky.
Well, at least in the solid centre. This has a decent amount of tannins in the finish. Slightly gritty.
Score: 83 points - perhaps a slight drop-off since earlier batches that scored 84 points.
Aberfeldy 1989/2007 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice)
Nose: Nose: Light & grainy. Extremely subtle. Very few distinguishing elements. Simply not my cup of tea.
Taste: Quite soft and nondescript. Bitter centre. Spirity bite in the finish. Very little to get me excited...
Score: 70 points - But I should point out that almost all other maniacs liked this one better than I did.
Aberfeldy 25yo 1975/2001 (57.0%, Cadenhead's, Sherry, 228 Bts.)
The nose was very polished, although it started a tad restrained. Seems like a straight shooter.
However, it opens up with pipe tobacco and much more complex aroma's over time. Fabulous!
The taste was big and fruity and quickly loads of liquorice emerged. A very, very nice Aberfeldy.
Score: I went with 92 points and Davin even loved it 93 points worth. Quite brilliant; we both loved it.
Aberfeldy 12yo (40%, OB, Dewar's, Tall, slender bottle with green banner, bottled +/- 2000, 70cl)
Nose: Ah, that's interesting? Very spicy, very herbal. Playful prickle. Then it moves into a sweet & sour direction.
It becomes fruitier. Japanese crackers? Then more organic notes appear - leather?
Some smoke after 10 minutes, but it drops off. Some water revives it again, releasing much more smoke.
Only for half a minute, though; then it seems dead - and picks up again. A strange 'up & down' effect.
Taste: Harsh and rough at the start. Hint of salt liquorice. Orange lemonade in the finish?
Not as endearing as the nose. Although it has its moments, it's slightly disappointing.
Score: 78 points - this is a real nasal roller coaster! Unfortunately, but I'm afraid the taste is just so-so.
Aberfeldy 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Ultimate, Dist. 11/4/1991, Bottled 8/5/2000, Cask #2713)
This one didn't make an overwhelming first impression, as you can see from these tasting notes.
Nose: Very soft start - quite 'subtle'. Becomes bigger and more spicy after a minute.
Incense? Coffee? A little oily. Some citrus. Nevertheless, it remains relatively restrained.
Taste: Soft, smooth and warm at first. Rather sweet. Pink bubblegum? Extremely dry finish.
Score: 70 points - not a very impressive score, but this Aberfeldy has nothing to be ashamed of either.
Aberfeldy 1978/1996 (59.3%, Scott's Selection, French market, 70cl)
I sampled it in a H2H session in August 2002 against the Aberfeldy 12yo I just described.
Nose: Wow! Powerful. Lots of fruit, lots of perspective. Fruit cake?
Slightly dusty. Complex with more sour/vegetable notes after time.
Great development over time, with organic notes growing stronger and stronger.
A little overwhelming at cask strength. Seems sweeter with five drops of water.
Strangely enough, some water seemed to dim the nose a little.
Taste: Soft start, followed by a big, fruity burn. Chewy. Groovy, baby!
Sweet when sampled by the drop. Overwhelming with bigger sips. Intriguing development
Fresher with water, but the sweetness remains dominant in the very long finish.
Score: 83 points - bloody decent stuff! It has some very entertaining sherry accents.
These sherry overtones complement the other elements rather than overwhelm them.
Aberfeldy 17yo 1978/1995 (57.9%, Cadenhead's, D08/78, B10/95, 5cl)
Nose: Smooth and sherried. Hint of peat after a while? This Aberfeldy opens up very nicely indeed.
Cookies and toffee. It's like a cakewalk in a cookie bakery. Something faintly medicinal.
Taste: Smooth, sweet and easily drinkable at cask strength. Woody, fruity burn in the centre.
A playful hint of fruits hangs around for a long time. Coffee bitterness in the long, long finish.
Score: 83 points - It loses a few points in the woody finish, but it's still a recommendable malt.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Aberfeldy Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Aberfeldy page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Aberfeldy expressions that have been released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or