Scores & tasting notes:
Aultmore (Pronounced: OLT-more)
57°33'59.83 N, 3°0'3.24 W
Glentauchers, Strathisla, Strathmill
Auchinderran Burn / Foggie Moss
2 wash stills & 2 spirit stills
2,900,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Bacardi > John Dewar & Sons (since 1998)
Keith, Banffshire, AB45 3JT, Scotland
Yes; in 2004 a 12 years old OB was launched
Below, on Whiskyfun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Aultmore (Gaelic for 'big burn') was named after a nearby river.
It was built just North of Keith by Alexander Edward in 1895/96 and
the very first spirit was distilled at Aultmore in early 1897. Alexander
already owned the Benrinnes distillery at the time and 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 the whisky production decreased
dramatically. As a result of the crisis Aultmore was closed for a few
years. Aultmore opened again around 1903/1904, but not for long.
Barley shortages during World War I forced the distillery to close
its doors again - just like most of its competitors, by the way.
The distillery was purchased by John Dewar
in 1923 and became part of DCL in 1925.
In the early 1950's Aultmore was among the first distilleries that experimented with the use of distillery waste as animal feed. Aultmore was reconstructed and upgraded in 1971, at which time the number of stills was expanded from two to the current four.
Aultmore has always been a 'modern' distillery; as you can see from the picture above, the reconstruction wasn't aimed at preserving a traditional 'picturesque' distillery look. Shortly after the upgrade of the distillery in 1971, Aultmore was sold on to industry giants United Distillers (predecessors of Diageo), who released a 'semi-official' 12yo Flora & Fauna bottling in 1991 (picture at the left) and a 'Rare Malts' version in 1996.
In 1998, a little over a century after it was founded, Aultmore
was acquired by the current owners Bacardi through their
subsidiary John Dewar & Sons. That's correct; that's the very
same company that bought the Aultmore distillery in 1923.
Only a very small percentage of all the malt whisky that is
produced at Aultmore was ever bottled as a single malt; most
of it is still makes it into the Dewar's blends like the widely
available 'White Label'. New owners Bacardi don't seem to be
in a hurry to change that long lived tradition. Well, based on
the bottlings I've sampled so far that might probably for the
best anyway; none of the single malts scored above average
(75 points), so why bother? Well... Hold that thought...
It's actually quite interesting to see how certain malts that
are quite popular among blenders (like Aultmore, Benrinnes,
Glen Elgin, Glenlossie, Glenrothes, Longmorn, etc.) don't seem
to inspire a lot of passion in the average malt 'connoisseurs'.
At the same time, the product from esteemed distilleries can be snubbed by blenders.
The malt whisky from distilleries like Aberlour, Ardmore, Dalmore and Glenmorangie doesn't
seem to have a big reputation with blenders. Fellow malt maniac Charlie MacLean has written an excellent E-pistle in Malt Maniacs about the classification of malt whiskies from a blender's point of view. It's 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.
2004 - A 12yo official bottling
of Aultmore was released, the first 'proper' official bottling after two 'semi-official' bottlings; a 12yo 'Flora & Fauna' that was released in 1991 and a 21yo 'Rare Malts' bottling bottled in 2003.
Most of the Aultmore malt whisky is used in 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.
2013 - I haven't heard any news from Aultmore 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%. Scotland currently exports whisky to 173 countries, including the USA, Australia, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Finland, Bermuda, Papua New Guinea and the Vatican City.
1) The name Aultmore is the anglicised version of the Gaelic phrase "An t-Allt Mòr", which means 'big burn'.
2) The 'big burn' that the name refers to is the nearby Burn of Auchinderran, Aultmore's water source.
3) Aultmore was briefly powered by a water wheel, but they soon switched to a steam engine.
4) Sir Thomas Robert Dewar is quoted as saying 'Nothing deflates so fast as a punctured reputation'.
5) Since 1996, the freshly distilled whisky from the Aultmore distillery is not matured at the distillery site.
In fact, none of the malt whisky distilleries that are owned by Bacardi John Dewar's & Sons (in 2011 that were Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, MacDuff / Glen Deveron and Royal Brackla) have any warehouses left.
6) 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. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Craigellachie, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
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-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.
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 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 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.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Aultmore 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 Aultmore page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Aultmore 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