I love getting the opportunity to try a whisky from a distillery for the first time. The possibilities! The allure of a new experience; perhaps it will be a new gem, a new favorite! Honestly, it’s a large part of why I started writing this blog. I wanted to catalog those new experiences, share them, and give myself more chances to try new whisky.
After more than 10 years of doing this, I’m starting to run out of new whiskies to try. New single malt distilleries, I mean… there’s an unending deluge of new expressions from existing distilleries.
Enter Aberfeldy, which is essentially synonymous with Dewar’s Blended Scotch. The two are owned by the same company, and nearly all of Aberfeldy’s single malt production goes into making Dewar’s. I kinda like Dewar’s, and I liked the idea of drinking a concentrated, undiluted-by-grain-whisky version of it. It has a 12 year age statement, too, which is not a guarantee but a reassurance.
Aberfeldy 12 is aged in a combination of casks, including ex-sherry and ex-bourbon, some refill and some re-charred. Alas, the 40% bottling strength is a red flag. Luckily, it’s priced correctly and can often be found for under $40.
Nose: What a surprise, it smells like Dewar’s! Specifically, a bevy of tropical fruits: kiwi, coconut, exotic citrus, unripe banana, and a very tart passion fruit or papaya or something. Some mild florals, and a light bed of sweet malt round out this very Highland profile. A rest in the glass develops the malt into more specific notes of graham cracker and shortbread cookie. A lovely aroma.
Palate: Very thin – very watery – body. Some of the tropical fruit notes arrive after the brief tongue burn, but they are substantially muted (watered-down). The malt is similarly thin. Vanilla wafer cookies. That’s about it.
Finish: On the short side. The malt gets a little sweeter here, with a touch of nuttiness. There’s also some bitter charcoal but little tannin. Fades quickly to just a lingering bitter note.
With Water: A (very) few drops of water increase the nose tickle and scatter the volatile fruits and flowers. The palate – now even thinner – has no additional notes. The finish might be a touch sweeter. Avoid water with this.
Overall: Ahh, yet another Highlander with a lovely floral aroma ruined by an overly-watered bottling strength and a significant lack of depth on the tongue. One could arguably be best served by smelling a glass of Aberfeldy 12 for the duration of a sitting, and then leaving without tasting any.
This indisputably needs a higher ABV – 46% at a minimum – and another 3 years or so in cask to develop a little depth and hopefully shed some of that bitterness. I’d be highly interested in a cask-strength or single-cask bottling from Aberfeldy – I’d like to see if that lovely flowers-and-fruit aroma can translate to the palate at higher concentrations.
Usually I’m in 100% agreement with your reviews, but this is one that I truly love – especially given the price point. Smooth and easy drinking, not overly complex. It’s a scotch that I often give to people that say they’ve never had scotch or want an easy bottle to start with.
Love the site, please keep them coming!
Thanks for the comment! I’m happy to be disagreed with. I do agree that it’s easy to drink, and it’s a good point that those new to whisky might prefer the 40% ABV. Cheers!
I sort of agree with both of you. I think that for the price this sells for you could do a lot worse. However, I haven’t had this for a very long time because of the 40% abv. Just about all of the whisky I buy these days is bottled at 46% or more. It seems to me that bottlings of Highland whisky that are well presented are few and far between compared to other regions. In my opinion not only is the body too thin at 40%, they also don’t hold up too well if not finished quickly. The only thing that surprised me about your review is that you never had this before after all these years of writing this blog.
Yeah, I have a number of weird gaps in my experience. I’m not super thorough about “checking off” drams, so I miss some important ones. So many whiskies, so little time!
I think it’s much easier to check things off when you’re not under pressure to write a weekly blog. I generally only drink scotch so that also makes it easier. The other thing I should have added is that I love the artwork on the tube. I may not have bought a bottle of this in a long time, but I have had an empty tube on my shelf for years.
This review is spot on. I find Aberfeldy 12 to taste like kerosene, ie Dewars White Label, and the 18yr drinks 12 years old. I can also attest that single cask independent bottlings of Aberfeldy are in an entirely different league, suggesting it’s the presentation that fails the OBs, not the distillate. Oddly, I believe the same group also owns Craigellachie, which I love and you don’t, but point being that brand is presented at 46% and NCF. Go figure.
There’s nothing bad about Aberfeldy 12, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it either, imho. It’s kind of the “beige” of single malt. At the same price point (in Ontario), I’d much rather get Benromach 10 (when available), Glengoyne 10, Glenfarclas 12, or Tomatin 12.