Scores & tasting notes:
Aberlour (Pronounced: ABER-louwer and/or ABER-lahr)
Speyside - Central
57°28'02 N, 3°13,47 W
Macallan, Imperial, Craigellachie
Sources on Ben Rinnes mountain
2 Wash & 2 Spirit stills
3,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Pernod Ricard > Chivas Brothers (since 1945)
Aberlour, Banffshire, AB38 9PJ, Scotland
+441340 - 881249
Yes - including 12 years old and 16 years old
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
1) In the early noughties Aberlour overtook Glenfiddich as the best selling single malt whisky in France.
Could the chauvinistic nature of our French friends have anything to do with that? Possibly, I imagine....
On the other hand, they seem to be very good at setting a reasonable price for every one of their bottlings.
2) The current Aberlour distillery wasn't the first distillery by that name; in 1826 Peter Weir and James Gordon founded a distillery with the same name a few miles down the Spey river. It was destroyed in a fire in 1879, after which the banker James Fleming built a new distillery by the same name at a new location.
3) Founder James Fleming was a real whisky entrepreneur - he also owned the Daluaine distillery.
4) In 1962, Aberlour distillery said goodbye to the old practice of floor maltings.
5) Up until now, Aberlour has rarely really let me down. When I first discovered the 10yo and 12yo expressions in the
mid-1990's I didn't immediately fell in love with the mildly sherried character of Aberlour. I liked them, but at the time they didn't seem quite as sherried as their Macallan competitors. However, when Aberlour introduced their
'A'bunadh' a few years later, they offered an excellent alternative to the cask strength Macallans. Sherried, cask strength and
single cask whisky - what more could a malthead with a taste for sherry want? With one notable exception, these Abunadh's are among my favourite Aberlours, so I've listed my tasting notes for various batches below.
Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #30 (59.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Whooh! Big, fruity and spicy. An autumn bonfire. Grows more expressive after a few minutes.
Sort of what you'd expect from a heavily sherried whisky. More pastry aroma's after adding water.
Taste: Very big and sweet - and surprisingly drinkable at almost 60%. With water it opens up quite a bit.
Diluted to circa 50% ABV it remained warm, sherried and woody. A touch of liquorice. Highly enjoyable.
Score: 89 points - this one came REALLY close two my two favourite batches, 'no number' and #20.
Aberlour 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Sweet and VERY fruity. Blueberries. A hint of smoke, perhaps? Opens up after 2 or 3 minutes.
The nasal spectrum grows wider with subtler fruits, coconut and some spices. Cinnamon?
Taste: Soft start, but soon a fruity wave emerges. Fairly sweet and sticky in the big, powerful centre.
The faintest hint of smoke as well - the palate matches the nose. Some tannins in the medium dry finish.
Score: 83 points - but it definitely needs at least 10 minutes to open up sufficiently. Fairly rough mouth feel.
Aberlour 19yo 1990/2010 (52.9%, Signatory Cask Strength Collection, Hogshead, C#101775, 222 Bts)
Nose: Malty with farmy notes in the background. Some sour notes that invoke the memory of new make spirit.
Milk powder. The proof isn't particularly high, but the vapours numb the nose after a few sniffs.
Taste: Hot, big and round start. A smooth warmth that hangs around. Some pine. Hot, harsh finish.
Score: 82 points - this one loses quite a few points in the finish.
Aberlour 18yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Rich and fruity; seems quite sherried. Expressive, almost like a cognac in style. Sweet undercurrent.
Some spices emerge after a few minutes of breathing - traces of cinnamon and nutmeg. Hint of rubber?
A hint of mint in the background? Growing complexity lifts it into the upper 80's eventually. Very enjoyable.
Taste: Fruity. Quite some tannins in the finish. Very nice, but not quite as 'thick' as the nose suggests.
Perhaps the faintest hint of rubber on the palate. The finish is quite dry with tannins moving to the foreground.
Score: 86 points - another Aberlour bottling that scores roughly what one might expect at its price level.
Aberlour 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Fruits & furniture polish. A little sombre. Not a lot of expression for a while, but it opens up. Faint organics?
Taste: Phew, that's a little weird. Sticky toffee sweetness. Smoke? Hint of oil. Sour undercurrent.
Rough tannic finish. Beer? It lacks some of the fresh fruitiness that I liked in earlier batches.
Score: 78 points - still very decent value, but not quite as good as it used to be.
Aberlour 16yo (43%, OB, Sherry, Double Cask Matured, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Light start. Subtle citrus & other fruits, then sweaty notes pop up. A hint of peaches or nectarines?
More organics over time - and perhaps some smoke. This offers an extra layer of complexity.
Taste: Solid start, but no screaming attack of smoke and peat.
Sweet centre, leaning towards the fruit. Sticky, fairly tannic finish.
Score: 83 points - definitely worth the extra Euro's compared to the regular 10yo bottling.
Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #20 (60,5%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Nose: Sweetness and dark fruits. Some nuts and polished wood as well. An excellent sherry profile.
Taste: Very hot. Sweet fruits. Raisins. Hint of eucalyptus? Is this a cognac?
Well, perhaps not - it's not overly woody in the finish. In fact, it's perfectly balanced!
Score: 90 points - many batches came close, and now this actually matches the brilliant first batch.
Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #11 (59.8%, OB, sampled at Whisky Live 2004 in London)
Nose: Not quite as extremely sherried as some of its earlier predecessors, it seems.
This allows some other elements (mainly subtle organics) to blend into the picture as well.
Taste: It appeared very hot in my mouth before the sherry, fruits and wood came forward.
It's a tad 'sharper' than earlier bottlings, but I'm still going with a score in the upper 80's.
Score: 89 points - one of the best batches I've encountered so far. Great stuff!
Aberlour A'bunadh Batch #9 (60.0%, OB, code 4653 / 2AJF901 / LK3N0934 058 12:46)
Nose: A little nuttier and more balanced than Batch #8 at first. Not as extremely sherried.
Toffee! Furniture polish. Fruitier notes appear after a minute. Nice - very well-balanced.
Taste: Sherried for a second, then sweet and fruity like lemon drops. Long woody finish.
Not very deep or complex at C/S. After a dash of water the fruit became more prominent.
Score: 87 points - this batch seems slightly more balanced than the previous one.
I've now sampled five different batches of the A'bunadh and all scored between 86 and 90 points.
This bottle set me back just 35 pounds, so it scores high on the 'value' scale as well.
Aberlour NAS 'A'bunadh' Batch #7 (59.6%, OB, code L302 064 036 09:49, 70cl)
Nose: Ooh, sherry. Lots of it, actually. After a minute it grows slightly maltier and nuttier.
Smoke and fruits. Opens up even further with 10 drops of water - especially on 'organics'.
Oh, I love it! More and more organic notes. A hint of marzipan? This is simply amazing...
In the end it's more balanced than Batch #6, which seemd extremely fruity in a H2H.
Taste: Drinkable and very sweet at C/S, when taken in tiny sips. When I accidentally took a big gulp, diluting it in my mouth with water prevented the worst damage, but it still shut down most of the receptors on my tongue. It seemed sweet and smoky at +/- 45%, with a cool afterburn. Marzipan and sherry in the finish.
Score: 89 points - a truly great malt. Too bad the prices are sky-rocketing by now...
Aberlour NAS 'A'bunadh' Batch #6 (59.6%, OB, code L320 448 354 12:01, 70cl)
Nose: Cinnamon! That's interesting - I didn't pick that one up in the previous batch.
At first this version seems less sherried than the previous one, but the nose develops.
Not as sweet or powerful in the nose either; at least in the start. But then it powers up.
Sweeter and more alcoholic. Rather fruity than sherried. Dried apples. Quite lovely.
A little malty, shifting towards nuttiness after a while. And maybe smoked almonds?
Distinctly 'gamy' - like wild boar in cranberry/wine-sauce. Wonderful development!
Taste: A deep sherry-sweet burn, changing to burnt toffee and caramel. Marzipan?
Smooth. Lots of wood and late fruits in the center. Just enough smoke. Fruitier with water.
Score: 88 points - it didn't really touch me like its predecessor, but it's still a very fine malt.
Aberlour NAS 'A'bunadh' No Batch # (59.6%, OB, code L320 150 116 15:40, 70cl)
(No batch number; bottled +/- 2000, I wonder what happened to batch #1-5?)
Nose: Ooh - very fruity with a wide spectrum of saturated shades of sherry.
Sweet and slightly dusty. Turkish delight. Smoke. Raisins. Flowers? Oriental spices?
Amazingly complex and well-balanced. Try sniffing your 'empty' glass with this one!
Taste: Very sherried & sweet start with hints of pink bubblegum. Deep fruits. Oak. Liquorice.
Wonderful balance. After adding some water, stone fruits (peaches and apricots) emerged.
Not as easily drinkable as the Aberlour 100 Proof, although the difference in proof is a mere 2.5%.
Score: 90 points - seriously good stuff. Sure, it has some flaws, but the fun factor is huge!
In the arena of the 'Cask Strength Sherry Heavy Hitters', it's the first serious competition for the Mac 10yo 100 Proof I ever tried. I rated the first few drams quite conservatively at 87/88 points, but this is one of those malts that keeps improving in the bottle when it's allowed to breathe a little. This could be the 'Macallan-killer'.
Aberlour-Glenlivet 8yo (50%, OB, Cube bottle, Small cork, Silver label, Bottled +/- 1975, 75cl)
Nose: Not as obviously (fruity) sweet and sherried like 'modern' young Aberlours released +/- 2000.
Instead, I found Maggi, vegetable stock, and celery. This is a beautifully 'composed' malt whisky.
Over time, a multitude of spices and organics emerge. and you can 'smell the age'. Remarkable.
Taste: Sweet, fruity and very robust on the palate. An exceptional malt - the stuff of legends.
I eventually decided to increase my already impressive score of 93 to 94 points.
The best Aberlour I've ever tried (well, until 2004) is both the 'youngest' and (probably) the 'oldest'...
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Aberlour 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 Aberlour page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Aberlour 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.)
2009 - Some strong words were probably spoken at the offices of Pernod Ricard when they discovered that they forgot to include one bottle in their shipment for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009. As (bad) luck would have it, that bottle was the latest batch of the Aberlour A'bunadh. In the past, every time they submitted it for our annual whisky competition it did very well - most maniacs enjoy the spicy and fairly heavily sherried profile quite a bit...
2005 - Thanks to the constant high quality of the official
bottlings, Aberlour had earned itself a spot in my ever
changing list of Top 10 Favourite Distilleries by the end
of 2005. After a decade of dramming I had sampled over
two dozen expressions and only two of those earned a
score below average; a very old (and possibly oxidized) 5cl
sample of a 9yo official bottling and an independent 14yo
bottling from Helen Arthur. In that last case I should have
known better - up until now I've disliked almost every
single bottling that Helen Arthur released under her name.
2003 - When some of the malt maniacs visited Speyside
in May 2003, we also visited the Aberlour distillery. Filling
your very own bottle of Aberlour at the end of the distillery
tour (directly from either a sherry or a bourbon cask) is a
memorable experience. The action picture shows, from left
to right, our resident Australian malt maniac Craig Daniels,
Canadian maniac Davin de kergommeaux (both sporting
those fashionable Malt Madness T-shirts) and Indian malt
maniac Krishna Nukala - who is obviously having the time
of his life filling up his own bottle of Aberlour to bring to
India with him. All in all, it was an excellent distillery tour.
Macallan had to introduce the 'Fine Oak' range in 2004 because they were running out of sherry casks. At some point, Aberlour has to respond to the dire sherry situation in Spain as well - all the more reason to stock up now, while you still can! There are notable differences between different batches of the A'bunadh, but IMHO all were excellent.
The heavily sherried character of many official bottlings of Aberlour is the result of an unusually high proportion of sherry matured malt whiskies they use in the vattings. The 'traditional' Aberlour recipe contains 25-50% sherry casked whisky, which is much more than usual. Of course, it remains to be seen if Aberlour will be able to keep producing malts according to this recipe.
Fortunately (and unlike some other marketing-driven malts I could mention), Aberlour usually delivers the goods. After playing second fiddle to Macallan as the premier sherry swig for a long time they may take the pole position in the forseeable future - provided they manage to maintain their constant quality and relatively friendly prices. The profile of the regular bottlings shows some 'drift' though.
Nobody can accuse Pernod Ricard of consistency in their advertising either. Since the early 1990's they used different themes to strengthen the brand identity. 'The Mystery That Is Aberlour' evolved into 'Earth. Air. Fire Water.' while the new slogan for the third millennium is 'Let The Deed Show'. Ah well, lets chalk it up to French fickleness ;-)
Unfortunately, modesty seems like a dirty word for Pernod-Ricard. Take this quote from the box of the Aberlour Antique, for instance: 'From the
Aberlour Distillery comes the finest of all Speyside malts, Aberlour Antique'. Hmmmmm... The finest of all Speyside malts?
Hardly - in fact, most other Aberlours did better.
Folklore has been emphasised in the marketing of Aberlour's malts ever since Campbell Distillers (now owned by Pernod Ricard) bought and expanded the distillery in 1945. I tried my first Aberlour 50 years later and was suitably impressed; great stuff!
That's a nice bit of folklore, but it has little to do with the real
water source of the current distillery; several springs on the
nearby mountain of Ben Rinnes. (The Benrinnes distillery itself is
located in the town of Aberlour too, a few miles to the south.)
distillery lies in the heart of the Spey valley.
Officially founded in 1879 by James Fleming, the long history of
distillation at the site goes back further, to at least 1826. The
name Aberlour is Gaelic for 'the mouth of the babbling brook' .
This probably refers to Saint Drostan's Well, the local spring
depicted on the labels of all official bottlings. It's a relatively
easy walk from the distillery on a nice summer day in Speyside.
Is the distillery or