Saturday, 17 January 2015

Aultmore - The Last Great Malts

Whisky Discovery
The Still House
At the beginning of January John Dewar & Sons Ltd. unveiled a new range of bottlings from Aultmore distillery, forming the next part of its ‘Last Great Malts’ of Scotland. This new range launches from January 2015 with a 12 Year Old, a 21 Year Old Travel Retail Exclusive and a 25 Year Old in limited quantities. It will be released initially in ten markets around the world including Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Travel Retail.

Dave visited the distillery at the end of June 2014 (and is logged as Distillery Discovery No.12) when he was invited along on a press trip that encompassed all five of the Barcardi groups single malt distilleries. You can see his photos of this distillery in our Facebook album here: Aultmore Photos

Aultmore was founded in 1896 by Alexander Edward, then owner of the Benrinnes Distillery, and has been producing malt whisky (with the usual on and off periods') since 1897 yet little is known about this obscure distillery. 
Whisky Discovery
Aultmore's sweeping hills in light fog or is it Scotch mist?
Located in the sweeping hills of Moray, just north of the town of Keith on the rolling road to Buckie, it's often cloaked in thick fog, exuding an air of mystery. Its name is a derived from the phrase An t-Allt Mòr, Gaelic for big burn, referring to its water source the Auchinderran burn. The sparsely populated land surrounding its site has always felt somewhat isolated. The distillery was originally powered by a waterwheel, and was soon adapted to use a steam engine instead which ran day and night for seventy years, apart from maintenance. During maintenance hours power was provided by the mainly retired waterwheel. The steam engine is now on display at the distillery.

Whisky Discovery
Early 12 Year Old
In the 1950s Aultmore was one of the first to use the draff, a wasteproduct of whisky production, as animal feed. The distilleries malting floors closed in 1968 and the entire distillery was rebuilt and expanded in 1970. In 1998 the distillery bought by Bacardi subsidiary Dewars, (which had previously owened Aultmore between 1923 and 1925) and produced their first official bottling, a 12 year old, in 2004, after an earlier flora and fauna release, and an earlier rare malts release from 1996

There's nothing left of the original buildings, and it's now installed with a modern 10 tonne Steinbecker full lauter mash tun. The distillery operates seven days a week and they achieve 16 mashes per week with a minimum fermentation time of 56 hours in the six wooden (larch) washbacks feeding two pairs of stills, and last year achieved 3.03 million litres of spirit.
Whisky Discovery
The Washbacks at Aultmore
The Scotch itself is often dubbed the ‘Rarest of Speyside’, yet its taste has long been rated top-class by industry insiders and is much sought-after for its grassy notes and exceptional smoothness. Despite its rarity, for more than 100 years it’s known to have been a secret dram of locals and Buckie fishermen, savoured by those who knew to ask at nearby inns for ‘a nip of the Buckie Road’. Most of the whisky produced like most malt distilleries goes for blending, and Aultmore, has up until now been used exclusively for blends.

Legendary whisky writer Michael Jackson describes Aultmore as a 'fine malt in the oaky style' and goes on to describe the house style as 'Fresh, dry, herbal, spicy, oaky. Reminiscent of a Fino Sherry, albeit a very big one. Before dinner' (Malt Whisky Companion 6th Edition). 

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society describe Aultmore as a Speyside (Deveron) and go on to say it is considered Top Dressing by blenders, and is bottled only in small amounts by John Dewar & Sons (Bacardi). The first Society bottling was in 1989 (Distillery No.73)

During the press trip Dave got to try the 'work in progress' cask sample of the 25 Year Old (Whisky Discovery No.882) and later at a Masterclass at Dramboree 2014 Brand Ambassador Stephen Marshall brought along both the 12 Year (Whisky Discovery No.913) and 21 Year Old (Whisky Discovery No.914) expressions, albeit the unfinished product, as all three were cask samples of 'work in progress. 
Whisky Discovery
Work in progress

All three new releases have been released at 46% abv, are non chill filtered and natural colour. I was was sent samples of all three for the following reviews:

Whisky Discovery #1140

Aultmore 12 Years Old, 46% abv
Speyside Singe Malt
Circa £45.00 700ml
Whisky Discovery
Official Tasting Notes: Born of fog, bog and brimming wee burns, a verdant nose of dewy moss and delicate flora, sweet liquid tracking a secluded path, gliding through green grass and fresh wild herbs.

So What Did I Think?
The nose was very Clean and fresh with grassy citrus notes which softens after a little time in the glass. The freshness transfers nicely to the palate too with the citrus notes more lime like. It's quite peppery too. Once it has had time to settle and a drop of water added the gentle sweetness comes through, citrus remains with tangy cheesecake and shortbread biscuits. The finish is long and dry, while remaining grassy, with perhaps more herbal notes developing at the very end. The following morning the glass gave notes of malty chocolate with hints of heather.

Verdict: Well this is certainly within my whisky budget and certainly something I'm looking forward to introducing to friends at the Bedford Whisky Club as soon as I can

Whisky Discovery #1141

Aultmore 21 Years Old, 46% abv
Speyside Singe Malt
Circa £tbc 700ml
Whisky Discovery
The 21 Year Old will only be available at Travel Retail outlets and we do not have any price details yet.

Official Tasting Notes: Ethereal summer nights, gloaming air tinged with fruity olive oil and rosemary, then velvety sweetness with soft melon and cereal hues; a sleekit-smooth secret, shared at last.

So What Did I Think?
The nose comes across immediately much richer in style with more fruit notes, softer tropical notes but still has a youthful freshness. Herbal notes come a little later, perhaps a hint of dried rosemary. The mouth feel is initially sweet, but there is a surprising hint of 'old Whisky' notes that I wasn't expecting. It's certainly a very smooth and silky dram once given some time to settle in the glass. The citrus flavours reminded me of a watered down orange juice , which is accompanied with some polished wood notes which turn very dry towards the long finish as the tannins take over. The following morning the empty glass gave rich fruity notes with wet wood and malted biscuits.

Verdict: I suspect this might be a little out of my budget, but it certainly is an interesting expression which deserves further investigation.

Whisky Discovery #1142

Aultmore 25 Years Old, 46% abv
Speyside Singe Malt
Circa £300.00 700ml
Whisky Discovery
Official Tasting Notes: Reclined in damp shorn grass, vapours of lime and baked apples, each silken sip unveiling lush vanilla and buttery biscuits; dreich skies deserve a top-class dram.

So What Did I Think?
The nose opened with some icing sugar before the 'old whisky' notes really come through. There are all the cliché notes of polished wood, old leather book covers, cartridge paper and linseed oil. The 'house style 'grassy notes' are there but more subdued. A drop of water releases baked apples with cinnamon notes. Simply glorious! The palate is rich and creamy, decadent with typical vintage whisky notes of worn leather and polished wood and hints of shortbread biscuits. Once again the finish is very dry, but this has a peppery zest at the very end too.The following morning the empty glass was still glorious reminding me of old violins and rosin.

Verdict: I really loved this, but unfortunately it's out of my league!

Many thanks to Dewers for the samples and for my invitation to explore their five malt whisky distilleries. For more information about the Aultmore releases check out their website here: Aultmore For more information on the new single malt expressions, the five distilleries, tasting notes, crafting, and heritage, please visit: Last Great Malts

Slàinte! Dave

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