Aberfeldy distillery was built on the south bank of the Tay in 1896 by John Dewar & Sons.
It is a (relatively) recent distillery too - they started producing Scotch malt whisky in 1898.
But even with an age of a little over a century, this Aberfeldy distillery wasn’t the first...
Peter McIntosh and John McDonald were involved with another 'Aberfeldy' distillery
that also operated in the Perthshire area during the first half of the 19th century.
This earlier Aberfeldy distillery supposedly operated between 1830 and 1849.
The second Aberfeldy distillery was founded during the whisky boom at the end of
the 19th century - and was one that survived the Pattison Whisky Crisis that followed.
This new distillery was founded by John Dewar & Sons Ltd., which was in turn founded
by John Dewar (a.k.a. ‘John Dewar, Sr.’). The business would be continued by his sons; John Dewar Jr. and Thomas ‘Tommy’ Dewar, 1st Baron Dewar.
Tommy Dewar was an enthusiastic promoter of the ‘Dewar’s’ blend
and the third person in Great Britain to ever buy a car. He made
his purchase shortly after Thomas Lipton (the guy who supposedly
invented tea) and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Wartime has always spelled trouble for the Aberfeldy distillery. It was closed in 1917 because
the government decided that their remaining stocks of grain would be better suited as food
during the last stretch of World War I. Whisky production at the Aberfeldy distillery resumed
in 1919 and in 1925 it was sold to Distillers Company Limited (DCL). The distillery had
to close its doors once again during the second World War but it prospered after that.
This was significantly helped by the fact that it was conveniently located near the railway
between Aberfeldy and Perth - an advantage that not every malt whisky distillery had.
The Aberfeldy distillery was rebuilt and refitted with four new stills in 1972 and 1973.
(I assume they have since been replaced again, but have no data on that yet...)
In 1998 John Dewar & Sons (now a Bacardi subsidiary) bought back Aberfeldy from
Diageo - the conglomerate that formed when Guiness and Grand Metropolitan merged
in 1997. At the same time the Aultmore, Brackla and Craigellachie distilleries switched
owners, expanding Bacardi's portfolio to five Scotch malt whisky distilleries.
The Aberfeldy distillery is located in Perthshire, in the
North of the Midlands whisky region. That makes it
an Highland malt whisky, as confirmed on their labels.
in fact, some would argue that Aberfeldy is actually
located in the Eastern Highlands area, but these
distinctions are not very important these days.
Besides, the heart of whisky country is supposed
to be the Speyside region - just a little further North.
The nearest other whisky distilleries are Blair Athol,
Edradour and Glenturret - a bit to the South.
Aberfeldy distillery is also known as ‘Dewar’s World of Whisky’ and has a visitor centre and a café.
The address is: Aberfeldy, Perthshire, PH15 2EB, Scotland.
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 also Dewar's World of Whisky.
This is a 'brand centre' for the Dewar's malt & blended whiskies.
A similar set-up can be found at the Glenturret distillery that
houses the Famous Grouse Experience.
6) The legendary Sir Thomas ‘Tommy’ Dewar was known for his quips.
One of his quotes: 'Nothing deflates so fast as a punctured reputation'.
Admittedly, this has little to do with the Aberfeldy distillery specifically,
but given how the family name is part of the logo I felt it appropriate.
3) 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.
Other survivors are Ardmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach,
Dalwhinnie, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Longmorn and Tomatin.
7) John Dewar & Sons 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. Aberfeldy still plays a big role in today's
'Dewar's' blends, like their 'White Label'. 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.
4) Aberfeldy’s water source is the Pitilie Burn, which is unusually rich in mineral deposits including gold.
Aberfeldy uses the water for it’s malt whisky, while Braeval uses the same water as cooling water.
5) During the 1970s and 1980s United Distillers released no official bottlings of Aberfeldy (at least not to the
best of my knowledge), but in 1991 a ‘Flora & Fauna’ bottling was released as a semi-official Aberfeldy release.
After John Dewar & Sons obtained the distillery in 1998 they released a proper OB with John Dewar on the label.
8) According to the makers themselves, ‘The Golden Dram’ is a nickname for Aberfeldy.
2005 - The tall, slender 12yo official bottling with the green
label is replaced by a stockier bottle with a cream label.
2009 - Apart from a few single cask OB’s, the portfolio of
Aberfeldy has consisted of just three expressions for quite
a few years now - a 12yo, a 21yo and a rarely seen 25yo.
This doesn’t seem likely to change soon, but there are a few
dozen independent bottlings of Aberfeldy available as well.
2012 - I haven't personally seen a lot of 'Aberfeldy' adverts in recent years, but in December, Bacardi and 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.
2015 - Rather than adding a new extension to their line-up, Aberfeldy released an all new version of their 16yo
expression. This new version is (and I quote) “entirely finished” in premium Olorose sherry casks. This may be so,
but the vast majority of the malt whisky distilled at Aberfeldy is still matured in ex-bourbon casks.
2006 - I've tried a few fairly recommendable Aberfeldies,
but I have little experience with early noughties bottlings.
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 malt 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!
Taste: 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)
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, for the French market, 70cl)
Nose: Wow! Powerful. Lots of fruit, lots of perspective. Fruit cake? Slightly dusty.
Complex with great development over time; more sour tones, vegetables and organics after time goes by.
Taste: Soft start, followed by a big, fruity burn. Chewy. Groovy, baby! Sweet when sampled by the drop.
Overwhelming with bigger sips. Intriguing development; it seems fresher with water, with a long sweet finish.
Score: 83 points - this is bloody decent stuff with some very entertaining sherry accents.
Those 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.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Aberfeldy malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Aberfeldy I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Aberfeldy.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.