The name Aultmore means 'big burn' in Gaelic - probably a reference to the
nearby Isla river. It was built North of Keith by Alexander Edward in 1895/1896.
The very first spirit was distilled at Aultmore in early 1897. At the time,
Alexander Edward already owned the Benrinnes distillery, and he added
Oban to his collection of distilleries in 1898. The future looked bright...
Unfortunately, the 'fin de siecle' whisky boom ended not long after
Aultmore was constructed and demand for whisky decreased dramatically.
As a result of the crisis, the Aultmore distillery was closed for a few years.
Aultmore opened its doors again around 1903/1904, but not for very long.
In 1914 the UK became involved with an international dispute.
New owners Bacardi don't seem to be in a hurry to change that long lived tradition,
and based on the Aultmore bottlings I've sampled so far that might be a good thing.
During the 1990s, none of their bottlings scored above average (75 points), so at
the time blending the poor malt whisky with grain whisky seemed like a good plan.
Well... Hold that thought...
Aultmore became part of DCL in 1925 and things moved along uneventfully for a while.
In the early 1950's, Aultmore was among the first distilleries that experimented with the use of
distillery waste as animal feed. Aultmore distillery was reconstructed and upgraded in 1971,
at which time the number of two pot stills was expanded to the current four.
Shortly after the distillery upgrade in 1971, Aultmore was sold to industry giants United Distillers.
They were the predecessors of Diageo and released a 'semi-official' 12yo Flora & Fauna bottling
in 1991 and a 'UD Rare Malts' version in 1996. And then they sold the Aultmore distillery again...
In 1998, a little more than a century after it was founded, Aultmore
was acquired by the new owners Bacardi - through their subsidiary
John Dewar & Sons. That's correct; that's the very same company
that already bought the Aultmore distillery once before - in 1923.
Barley shortages during World War I forced the Aultmore
distillery to shut down once again, but the same was true
for most of its competitors. Details about the aftermath
of the war and the early 1920s are vague, but we know
that the distillery was purchased by John Dewar in 1923.
Only a tiny percentage of all the malt whisky that was ever produced at Aultmore
was bottled as a single malt - most of it is still ends up in the Dewar's blends.
It's actually quite interesting to see how certain malts that are quite popular among
blenders (like Aultmore, Benrinnes, Glen Elgin, Glenlossie, Glenrothes, etc.) don't
seem to inspire a lot of passion in the average malt whisky 'connoisseurs'.
At the same time, the product from highly esteemed distilleries like Aberlour,
Ardmore, Dalmore and Glenmorangie can be snubbed by whisky blenders.
Whisky writer Charlie MacLean has studied the classification of malt whiskies from a blender's point of view.
His book is a real eye-opener. Did you know that 'cult' Highland malts like Glen Garioch and Lochside are
considered '3d class' malts by blenders? In fact, they would rather use malts like Balmenach, Banff, Benriach,
Dalwhinnie, Glendullan, Glen Keith, Glen Spey, Speyburn or Strathisla in their blends. Interestingly enough,
these are not much sought after as single malts on their own.
As you can see from the picture at the left, the reconstruction
of Aultmore in 1971 wasn't aimed at preserving the looks of a
‘traditional’ Scotch whisky distillery. The contrast with the very
'picturesque' Strathisla distillery nearby is striking.
That distillery offers distillery tours - unlike Aultmore which
doesn’t look like an inspiring environment for visitors anyway.
3) The name Aultmore is the anglicised version of the Gaelic "An t-Allt Mòr".
This means 'big burn' - probably in reference to the nearby Burn of Auchinderran
(Aultmore's water source) or the Isla river a little further away.
1) Since 1996, freshly distilled Aultmore whisky is not matured at the distillery site any more.
In fact, none of the malt whisky distilleries that are owned by Bacardi / John Dewar's & Sons
have any on-site warehouses left. In 2016 those distilleries were Aberfeldy, Aultmore,
Craigellachie, MacDuff / Glen Deveron and (Royal) Brackla.
5) Dewar’s bought the Aultmore sistillery for 20,000 GBP in 1923.
7) Aultmore uses six washbacks made out of larch.
8) All of the original buildings were demolished in the massive reconstruction of 1972.
4) Aultmore distillery was powered by a water wheel for a short while after it was
founded, but they soon switched to a more ‘modern’ steam engine.
6) Sir Thomas Robert Dewar (one of the owners of Dewar’s) is quoted as saying:
'Nothing deflates so fast as a punctured reputation'.
2) Aultmore 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 include Ardmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain,
Craigellachie, Dalwhinnie, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
2004 - A 12yo official bottling of Aultmore is released, the first 'proper' OB after two
'semi-official' bottlings; a 12yo 'Flora & Fauna' first released in 1991 and a 21yo UDRM
bottling from 2003. Most of the Aultmore malt whisky is used for the Dewar's blends.
2008 - The control system for Aultmore's still house was modernised and the
crew switched to a production schedule of seven days a week. Most of the
current output is still used for Dewar's own blended whisky brands.
2015 - It seems Aultmore is trying to make up for lost time. After releasing three new official bottlings in 2014, the
line-up is extended further with an 18yo expression. That could mean they need less malt whisky for blends.
2014 - After a decade of relative silence, Aultmore releases two new official
bottlings: a revamped 12yo and a ‘premium’ 25yo release for the big spenders.
For the ‘captive audience’ in the travel retail environment, a 21yo edition
becomes available as well. I sampled it ‘on the go’ and wasn’t impressed.
2013 - I haven't heard any news from the Aultmore distillery since 2008, but the
whisky industry as a whole is booming. The volume of Scotch whisky exports had
only increased by about 30% over the past decade, but during the same period
the value of Scotch whisky exports grew by 87%. In 2013, Scotch whisky was
exported to 173 countries, including the USA, Australia, China, India, Russia,
Brazil, Finland, Bermuda, Papua New Guinea and the Vatican City.
Aultmore 16yo 1990/2007 (58.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, C#2536, 158 Bts.)
Nose: Polished & sherried. More cask influence than distillery influence. Spicy but a tad too harsh.
Then some clear 'rum' notes emerge. Growing complexity over time. An upper 80's nose.
Taste: Fruity, sweet & chewy. Good body; excellent tannins in the finish with a hint of smoke.
Score: 88 points - it jumped by one point from 87 points at the end of a looong finish.
Aultmore 1991/2005 (46%, Wilson & Morgan)
Nose: Rich & very fruity. Spices. Quite sharp, though - you can't get a nose-full. Rubber, fruit & sherry.
Smoke? Maybe a tad extreme, but that's just how I like it... Based on the nose, I could go for 90 points.
Taste: Sweet, rich and sherried. Quite lovely! Feels very hot - a bit too much? Mega-enjoyable, though.
Score: 88 points - this bottling was matured in sherry wood and it isn't ashamed about it.
A true sherry monster; quite extreme. It pushes all the right buttons for me. Lovely stuff...
Aultmore 15yo 1989/2005 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Nose: Grainy with a hint of something farmy. Light, reminding me a lot of Deanston right now. Spicy.
Taste: Fairly nondescript. Solid but not a lot stands out, so I'm not sure what else to write down here.
Score: 77 points - despite my limited notes I'd put it just a tad above average.
Aultmore 14yo 1989 (60.5%, James MacArthur)
Nose: Deep & sweet. Sophisticated fruits. More serious over time. What an enjoyable surprise!
Taste: Slow fruity explosion on the palate. Doesn't make a very big first impression but keeps improves.
Score: 86 points - an unexpected surprise and the second best Aultmore I've ever tried.
That could very well have to do with the high proof, which boosts the subtler notes.
Aultmore 15yo 1987 (46%, Whisky Galore, 5cl trade sample, Bottled +/- 2002)
Nose: Fruity start, growing 'farmy' and slightly sour quickly. Nicely developing organics. Coastal?
Sweetens out with time. Malty, but I noticed something medicinal as well. Some sweat, perhaps?
Taste: Fruity start, then lots of wood opening up into a sweet centre. Feels fresh. Pleasant mouth feel.
Over time it grows extremely smoky. I have to admit that it's a tad too bitter in the finish for me.
Score: 75 points - despite its flaws this malt sort of grew on me over time.
Too smoky on the palate for its own good? The smoke overpowers nearly everything else.
Aultmore 12yo 1989/2001 (43%, Signatory, Butt #2394, Distilled 30/05/89, Bottled 8/10/2001)
Nose: Sweetish. Dry wheat? Other cereals & grains. Faintest hint of something medicinal?
Taste: Something veggy and faintly sweetish. No obvious flaws, but a little bit bland. Sweet finish.
Score: 72 points - which is about as good as these young Aultmores seem to get, apparently.
Aultmore 11yo 1985/1997 (43%, Signatory Vintage, bottle #468 of 484 from oak butt #2904, 70cl).
Nose: Grainy start with a good deal of citrus. Spicy. A bit herbal. A whiff of rotting hay.
Spirity at times. Pinch of salt. Medium 'volume' - the lack of sherry wood is obvious.
With water: Perfumy. Vanilla? More flowery and fruity. It becomes fresher all around.
Taste: Smooth and a bit peppery at the same time. Bittersweet. Sherried; a little oily.
Gingerbread? Malty finish, becoming very dry and woody. Big burn in the back of your throat.
Score: 71 points - the paradoxes in the taste make it an interesting malt.
Aultmore 1989/1999 (50%, John Milroy Golden Strength, 70cl)
Nose: Softly sweet - a little restrained. Fresh, herbal, grassy. A fairly light profile.
A dash of pepper after a while. More honey after some time & water - which is nice...
Taste: Piny. Woody, with a malty undercurrent. Some eucalyptus or camphor, perhaps?
Sweet burn in the centre, which softens with some time and just a few drops of water.
Diluted further to +/- 30%, the sweetness switches on and off. Don't add too much water.
Score: 72 points - in the end I'd have to classify this as 'below average', I'm afraid.
Aultmore 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled early 1990's?)
Nose: Alcoholic and fresh. Herbal. Light and sweet. Faint smoke? Not very expressive.
More fruity and flowery elements with water. It has something sherried as well.
Taste: Light. Smooth and a little sweet. Malty. Maybe just a little floral and perfumy.
Decent burn. Lasting, dry finish. Pleasant but not a malt you'll remember for long.
Score: 69 points - but please note that this sample may have been drawn from an old bottle.
Aultmore-Glenlivet 10yo 1989/2000 (59.5%, Cadenhead's, 228 Bts.)
Nose: Sharp but a bit tired, sweetening out. Not a lot of definition at cask strength. Let's try some water.
A dozen drops brought out more of the fruity character in the nose. A hint of smoke perhaps. Cream?
Taste: Very sweet on the palate, growing smokier in the middle. Fresh & fruity tannins. Good body.
A very well-integrated whisky; nose and taste go together very well. Water ruins the finish though.
Score: 82 points - this whisky has fabulous legs, by the way; even after adding water.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Aultmore malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Aultmore 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 Aultmore.
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.