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.