Ten full years ago, I reviewed Aberlour 10-year on this blog, as one of my first posts. Amazing how time flies. My ‘review’ was about 2 sentences long, the bar that I bought the dram at doesn’t exist any more, and Aberlour 10 is no longer available in the US (although it is available in the UK). Also, I referred to its color as “orange”. Yikes.
I found a nice deal on the 12 year recently and thought I’d give Aberlour another shot to prove to me that it’s not only good for a’bunadh. (Would that really be so bad?) This, a “double-cask matured” single malt, is basically their answer for the now nearly-ubiquitous trend of thinning out your expensive sherried whisky with some not-quite-as-expensive ex-bourbon whisky, as pioneered by The Balvenie DoubleWood line. That makes it sound more cynical than it is: ex-bourbon casks can lend buttery caramel notes and a wider array of flavors to balance out the effects of a wine cask.
This Aberlour is aged in two separate cask types: “Traditional Oak” which is a funny way of saying ex-bourbon American Oak casks, and ex-Sherry casks. These are aged for 12 years and then married together in undisclosed proportions before bottling at the legal minimum 40% ABV. Interestingly, every expression in Aberlour’s official lineup is now labelled as a “Double Cask” whisky with the exception of a’bunadh. This may be their way of dealing with the expanding crisis of the Sherry barrel shortage in the whisky industry. Also, the website subtly refers to the sherry casks as “seasoned”, which usually means they are filled with sherry or a sherry-like wine and aged for short periods with the throwaway wine before being used to age whisky. To read more, check out Westland distillery’s thoughts on the current market for sherry casks.
Nose: Fruity with a ton of red grapefruit, cape gooseberry, kiwi, and decadent refined honey. Very floral as well, with a heady cloud of lemon verbena and honeysuckle. All of the fruits seem fresh and tart as opposed to the usual Aberlour dark red and black fruits. This is downright summery.
Palate: Syrupy body. Honey again, with almost no tongue burn at all. Dried apricots and golden figs replace the tart fruits from the aroma. There is a faint layer of oakiness, mostly with notes of cinnamon and vanilla.
Finish: Medium-short. The finish is a little muddled. The fruit notes are not clear, and the spicy oak notes are now marred with slightly acrid bitterness. Ends somewhat quickly, without evolving. This situation improves with further sips, which build up a little more sweetness to balance the bitterness.
With Water: A few drops of water mix up the fruits and flowers on the aroma – making them harder to place. The palate seems thinner, but the finish has more fruit. I would probably skip the water, since I liked the aroma so much in the first place.
Overall: Despite the low ABV, I would not call this watery or lacking in potency. The aroma is lovely and deeply perfumed, the palate competent and well-composed, but the finish is an outright disappointment. That said, the price is dead on and I don’t feel like the 40% ABV is unduly low in this case. I do think Balvenie DoubleWood 12 edges this one out in terms of polish and overall delivery, but if the Aberlour is significantly cheaper in your area then it’s probably a better buy.
If we treat this as an entry-level malt and assume an entry-level price, then this is a solid ‘Recommended’. Just don’t expect to be wowed beyond the aroma.