Saturday, 18 January 2014

Aberlour Tweet Tasting

Whisky Discovery
I was really pleased to be invited to the Aberlour Tweet Tasting at the beginning of December. Checking my liquid log revealed that just one Aberlour expression had been visited in over 650 different whiskies. It was high time I discovered more!

Aberlour (pronounced ‘Abba-LOW-errr’) single malt whisky is named after where it’s made. It means ‘the mouth of the chattering burn’ in Gaelic, and this wild mountain stream is part of the Aberlour story. Steeped in centuries of legend and surrounded by the dramatic Highland scenery of Ben Rinnes, the village of Aberlour lies at the very heart of Speyside, where the Lour burn joins the River Spey.

The distillery was founded by Peter Weir and James Gordon in 1826, though Peter was to pull out a year later. The distillery has been rebuilt twice due to devastating fire damage; the first rebuild took place in 1879 and was financed by James Fleming, a local banker who relocated it upstream. It was rebuilt again in 1898 and was redesigned by the architect Charles Doig. Now owned by Chivas Brothers, a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, Aberlour is the seventh best-selling Scotch single malt.
Whisky Discovery
A Monday night Tweet Tasting was arranged  for the 2nd December and at a slightly later than usual start time of 7:30pm Five core expressions were tasted, each being a new Whisky Discovery.

Whisky Discovery #654

Aberlour 12 Year Old Double Cask Matured (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £36.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
This expression is a fine example of how the distinctively crisp, citrus character of Aberlour’s raw spirit is deftly softened by double cask maturation. Oak and seasoned Sherry butts are both used, as the mellowed spirits within are combined to deliver a subtly balanced flavour. Aberlour’s uniquely rewarding depth of character derives from how it’s made as much as the quality of the soft spring water and the other ingredients.

So What Did I Think?
Nice rich fruity nose, Over-ripe orchard fruits, dried orange peel and vanilla notes with a touch of mint too. After a little while in the glass a soft malty note develops along with some caramelised banana. Well that was the notes I tweeted during the tweet tasting, but with 5cl samples I held some back for returning to later. With a fresh glass poured I concur with my original notes but seem to be finding rich butterscotch notes now, the hard candy butterscotch as opposed to the sweet sickly Angel Delight type.

Palate: Not quite as rich as the nose was suggesting on first taste. Light and quite thin though enjoyable Vanilla icecream with raisins and a touch of cinnamon. Milk chocolate notes follow immediately after swallowing, this is very soft and very drinkable. Returning to nose after the first sip, those milk chocolate notes start to come through here to. The finish is  really quite short, but I must admit i wasn't expecting an 'all night finish' purely on the initial mouth-feel. There's a gentle spicy tang with a hint of cloves in caramel.

Returning to the empty glass in the morning lots of lovely dark chocolate powder notes are clearly identifiable.

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@Girl_Whisky: Nuts … caramel, lovely sweetness on the nose, flowers, banana , burned wood, pepperish
@whiskyrepublic: I'm getting hints of cherry and white ever so slight menthol note...nice
@whiskycast: Figs and honey, touches of dried apricots, vanilla, and a hint of almond on the nose.
@malthound: Nose: sweet, citrus, hint of apple
@TheWhiskyLounge: Light breakfast marmalade, touch caramel, quite fresh floral, boiled sweets, plain flour, orange cordial.
@annCBScotch: Delicious intriguing aromas of autumnal fruits show the best of both bourbon and sherry casks. Red fruits in the new spirit have been transformed by 12 years in double casks to a deep velvety creamy experience
@TheWhiskyWire: Sherry trifle topped with sliced bananas on the nose. A tin of boiled condensed milk and even more bananas, banoffee pie anyone?
@TonyWTC: Taste: Incredibly smooth sherry and galaxy chocolate at first, then ginger spice and wood. Quite drying
@ScotMaltWhisky: Palate, creamy toffee, ginger, cinnamon, marmalade some oak spice
@galg: Dried fruit goodness here with a lot of sherry effect, yet it's quite gentle, it's not in your face kind of sherry

Whisky Discovery #655

Aberlour 16 Year Old Double Cask Matured (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £45.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
Matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts, and bottled a reasonable 43% abv

So What Did I Think?
Richer and darker than the 12 Year Old, showing more sherry influence perhaps? Similar over-ripe fruit notes, perhaps more stewed-like, apples/pears, with a slight sourness and a touch of waxy furniture polish. After a little while a definite cinnamon pastry note develops followed by some plasticine/pay-doh like notes before returning to a malty fruit compote with sultanas and sugary dates.

The richer colour and nose continues onto the palate with a more fuller mouth feel, remaining soft and fruity but feeling a little more like the nose than the 12 Year Old. Quite a rich woody flavour to the tinned pear notes which turns malty and then drying tannins at the fairly shortish finish.

Again the empty glass emirate rich dark chocolate notes the following morning, this on reminding me of a bar of Bournville rather than chocolate powder, and there are more well seasoned lumber notes.

What Did Everyone Else Think?

@themaltedmuse: Less sweetness here but still holds subtlety on the nose. more dry spice on the taste and finish plus some peppered cayenne
@summerfruitcup: Nose - rhubarb, more dry floral notes, backed up by warm caramel and custard.
@EdinburghWhisky: Nose: Milk chocolate, bit of honey. slightly nutty, Touch of pear. Think I prefer the 1st nose
@petedrinks: Has much more sherry presence; raisins, toffee, a darker sweetness than the 12 Year Old
@whiskycast: Nose; good spices, raisin bread, cinnamon, nutmeg, hint of pine needles, honey and figs.
@whiskyrepublic: Nose - A more sumptuous colour than the 12 Year Old, Lovely arc on the legs, pungent fruits, feels like it's holding something back
@steveprentice: Palate: Immediately you get oak on the palate, maybe more than the nose would lead you to imagine, it's a fairly fresh sawdust sweet oak followed on by barley malt and then the sweet green apple freshness you found when nosing.
@LRWhisky: Palate - quite buttery, honey, butter shortcrust pastry, pain au raisin, spicy, some pepper, sherry 
@ScotMaltWhisky: Palate is mildly sweet and floral. Sweet grape, gentle spice, nutty, stewed plum, vanilla 
@kristianehenney: Palate; Nuttier than I was expecting. But I did just eat a cashew. Also raisins, definitely sherry undertones, I think cumin
@JamesBrownisms: Ooh tingly tongue that leaves plum, oak and spice lingering. Delicious.

Whisky Discovery #656

Aberlour A'Bunadh - Batch 45 (60.2% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £40.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
A’Bunadh is made in homage to Aberlour’s founder, James Fleming, using only traditional methods without chill filtration or other modern processes. Gaelic for ‘of the origin’, A'Bunadhmis matured exclusively in Oloroso ex-sherry butts and bottled at natural cask-strength. With each batch carefully made by hand this is a unique cask strength whisky has achieved cult status among whisky connoisseurs.

So What Did I Think?
A'Bunadh is the only Aberlour on my liquid log to date. I've still got the last couple of drams of Batch 37 and you can find out what I thought of that here: A'bunadh Batch 37 This immediately brought back memories of that big meaty, punchy dram. 

The A'Bunadh has a fabulous nose, and being cask strength, quite punchy initially, but hold fast this has fabulous notes of a rich and heavily sherried fruit cake, then there's liquorice, cloves with ginger. A'Bunadh, it was a great discovery when I first opened my Batch 37 and pleased to say I'm very much impressed with Batch 45

Even at 60.2% abv I really don't feel this A'Bunadh needs water, it sits majestically on the palate, with rich old fashioned dark marmalade flavours, candied orange peel in sticky Demarara sugar and leaves a cigar smoke like taste in the mouth.

The empty glass still has some of the signature chocolate notes, but this is much more malty and remains quite spicy too

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@petedrinks: A'bunadh is surprisingly gentle on the nose, given the cask strength. Was expecting the alcohol to blow my nose off
@Girl_Whisky: Sweet, soft, peppery, cucumber, caramel, onion, pizza, salty
@kristianehenney: Nose; Gorgeous orange. Full on Christmas pud, dark fruits, thick and silken, dark chocolate
@galg: Nose: lots and lots of dried fruit. an avalanche of sultanas, plums, prunes, varnish, acetone. OH MY. I love it.
@MCRWhiskyClub: Nose - A nostril tingling display of sherried raisins, medjool dates, cranberry sauce, star anise cinnamon and cacao nibs
@TheWhiskyWire: In infusion of winter spice, sweet sherry and something rather dunnage-esque on the nose.
@annCBScotch: Multi-layered or multi faceted - it shows so many rich dried fruits, spices dark chocolate nutty notes - delicious
@whiskywardrobe: Lovely palate with even more sherry fingerprint. So much leather, wood, vanilla and tobacco... I love it! 
@LucyJRichardson: Definitely getting xmas pud with Abunadh, followed by a slither of Terry's chocolate orange - yum! 
@ScotMaltWhisky: Pate - loads going on, thick treacle toffee sugars, orange, stewed plum, a nuttiness, spicy, honeyed, dark chocolate 
@themaltedmuse: Spiced rum, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, molasses but still find white chocolate an underlying creaminess that survives the abv 
@whiskyrepublic: Palate - I'm in a tanning factory (leather not UV), smoking cigars whilst crushing chocolate coated raisins with a plum 
@malthound: Short tannin finish with exploding spiciness!

Whisky Discovery #657

Aberlour 18 Year Old (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £99.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
Matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts. The current whisky maker and his team are the same men who originally laid down the casks over 18 Years ago.

So What Did I Think?
The 18 Year Old has a rich and fruity nose with lots of chocolate immediately. There's notes of orange zest and over-ripe soft stone fruit; plums and peaches. There's also some great wood shop flavours, well seasoned lumber as well as polished wood. Spices are subdued, softer and melding together. Later notes gave rich caramelised and dried fruits; apricots in particular.

The mouth feel comes across as refined and luxurious. Smooth and gentle the chocolate comes across on the palate balanced with glorious rich sherried oak flavours, spiced fruits; orange and apricot and wood comes through as sawdust. The chocolate remains on the long finish, turning slightly bitter at the very end.

The empty glass is full of the chocolate notes the following morning too!

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@saraandthebear: Creme Caramel, rich and viscous and that's just the nose.

@themaltedmuse: Nose has nutmeg and wood but there is some pear drop and cut grass in there

@summerfruitcup: Nose - orange, a little sherbet, sherry and creamy vanilla.
@kristianehenney: Nose - oaky, apple, strawberry laces confectionery, and a green freshness, much more of a summer dram
@ScotMaltWhisky: Nose is fruity - orange, red apple, plum all coated in vanilla.
@Girl_Whisky: Nose: Citrus, smooth, cake, green, summer fruit, exotic fruit, coconut, yoghurt
@TheWhiskyWire: Typical sheer sherried and bourbon bounty of an Aberlour, just richer with a fleeting flounce of floral sweetness.
@jasonbstanding: Tastes of slightly burnt candied orange& makes me think of what I think madeira should taste like had I ever had it. 
@whiskyrepublic: Palate, smooth, well integrated, ripe fruits (apples and lychee?), sweet caramel and subtle cinnamon notes. Lovely dram 
@steveprentice: Palate: Richly smooth after the high ABV of the a'bunadh, the older age also helps, but don't be fooled, it builds to have some fairly good spices quite quickly, although they're tempered so as to not be too much. A slight ashy nature (from the cask?) which brings more gravitas to what becomes a gentle giant the longer you hold it on your tongue.
@whiskycast: Finish is full of toffee, lingering cinnamon, honey, nutmeg, and is very, very smooth.

Whisky Discovery #658

Aberlour 12 Year Old NCF (48% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £39.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
An interesting variant on Aberlour's usual 12 year old whisky, not only changing the proportions of different whiskies that are used to make the expression, but also leaving it un-chillfiltered. This means that it retains the full body and flavour of the whisky from the cask, although it may go cloudy if water is added or it gets cold.

So What Did I Think?
This is a little punchier than the first 12 year old then I noticed the higher abv, however the initial flavours follow the distillery profile too,  but in addition this seems to have a little white pepper dusted over the citrus zest. The underlying sweetness keeps pushing through and there's a fresh woody note with wood shavings and almonds

The non-chill filtratiuon gives this dram a really lovely mouth coating experience, it feels so much much thicker than the standard 12 Year Old giving a rich mouth-feel which I found to be best of the evening in that respect. There's a zesty peppery start while remaining rich and creamy; orange marmalade notes develop along sweet honey.

What Did Everyone Else Think?
@summerfruitcup: Softer cereal notes, almost milky, but then there's a hint of peat that's caught me off-guard
@whiskycast: Nose is almonds, figs, Christmas cake, honey, and a touch of orange peel.
@themaltedmuse: Again with the rich colour nose wood polish honey roasted walnuts hint of nutmeg and just a smudge go black pepper
@whiskyrepublic: Nose: All the Aberlour traits emerging....the 48% abv adding pungency, sherry, figs, maybe a hint of smoke perhaps
@jasonbstanding: Definitely no shrinking violet. Almost as prickly as the A'bunadh is (now).
@whiskywardrobe: Nose is quite nice and refreshing after so many sherried whiskies. It looks older than 12 years old
@petedrinks: Nose is smooth, with red fruit - raspberry yoghurt but with something spicier at the finish
@whiskydr: Welcome back you essential oils where have you been all this time, fantastic dram here, left in glass for 10 mins 
@JamesBrownisms: Nose: dark fruit jam, like the kind a grandma makes up north 
@ScotMaltWhisky: Palate. A touch of barley sweetness mingling with the mild sherry fruitiness. Creamy toffee, spicier with each mouthful 
@WhiskyIsrael: I love the mouthfeel on this one oily and spicy, quite some pepper and spice. It's intense! 
@kristianehenney: Much more peppery and spicy than I expected on the palate. But also fresher fruit. Honeydew melon and apple

And finally....
My first real visit to the single malts of Aberlour registering a full five out of five new Whisky Discoveries for the liquid log. A'Bunadh, I hear is a bit hit and miss for some people. I've only tried just the two batches, and the following evening I put them head to head, both good for me, but Batch 45 won for me. I loved the mouth-feel of the 12 Year Old NCF and prefer that to the standard 12 Year Old and would happily have either/both the 16 and 18 Year Old expressions on my shelf! A visit to the Aberlour Distillery is definitely on my list of 'things to do'.

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, to @annCBScotch and the team at the Aberlour Distillery and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @WhiskyWardrobe @EdinburghWhisky @LaCaveDeCobalt @LRWhisky @malthound @steveprentice @summerfruitcup @themaltedmuse @whiskybarrel @TheWhiskyBoys @TonyWTC @ifotou @whiskycast @whiskydr @Girl_Whisky @jasonbstanding @WhiskyDiscovery @galg @TheWhiskyLounge @petedrinks @MCRWhiskyClub @WhiskyRepublic @KristianeHenney @andrew1bardsley @ScotMaltWhisky

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