Aberfeldy Distillery Exclusive – Cask 21426

For my next review I will be taking a look at a whisky from a distillery very close to my heart, the Aberfeldy Distillery. I was born and raised in Aberfeldy, in highland Perthshire, and the distillery plays a big part in the local community. From being the largest employer in the area to sponsoring countless local events it is an ever present feature in the community. I remember going on walks with my family in the woods behind the distillery when i was younger, the smell of the fermentation drifting through the trees. I absolutely hated it – believe it or not I wasn’t a big whisky drinker aged 6! – but the distillery was a part of growing up in the town. It’s nice that a distillery, even when owned by one of the largest companies in the drinks industry (Bacardi), is so involved in a small rural community.

Aberfeldy is owned by John Dewar & Sons, part of the Bacardi group, and is the only distillery to be built by the Dewars family. When John and Tommy Dewar’s took over the business from their father in the 1880’s their sales were on the rise. They took a lease at the nearby Tullymet distillery in order to meet fillings for theirs blends but within time the demand outstripped it’s capacity. So in 1886 the brother enlisted the famed architect Charles Doig to design their distillery, purpose built for creating their blends, half a mile outside of Aberfeldy. The first spirit ran off of the stills 2 years later, in 1898, and ever since the malt has been used as the heart malt of all of the Dewar’s blends. Only relatively recently has this whisky been available as a single malt, and in my opinion the best are the distillery exclusive single cask bottlings which are always of a high standard. Today we will be tasting the latest of these exclusives, a 2001 vintage (so a 15/16yo depending on distillation date) single cask Aberfeldy bottled at 56.95% ABV from an ex Bourbon barrel. This particular cask is cask number 21426 and is a refill barrel. Let’s get to it.

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Nose

Plenty of sweetness upfront on the nose, and a heavy, fatty note of almonds or almond butter. There is a strong, bitter note too of tannic wood and a fresh sap-like aroma. Muskier notes mingle with the wood, reminiscent of being in a dunnage warehouse, with earth, oak, tobacco leaf and an ashy, dying bonfire, note. It has a nice floral acidity to the nose with wild broom, gorse, pine needle tea, grape fruit rind and hay. Icing sugar/powdered sugar brings more sweetness through the slightly acidic and sappy aromas, and is backed up with white chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It’s also really hot and spicy on the nose with fiery ginger, green chilli, and black pepper. The spice, wood and alcohol give this whisky quite a closed off nose but water dramatically lifts this. With a splash of water a lot more citrus fruits come through with more sweetness but the usual honeyed characteristic that you get with Aberfeldy seems to be absent. There also is a sweet carrot-like note which, with the spice, gives an impression of carrot cake mix.

Palate

This has a huge arrival, and the strength of the whisky comes across a lot more than it did on the nose. On the palate there is plenty of sweetness and citric fruits upfront. The sweetness of caramelised demerara sugar and sugar syrup mix with notes of Seville oranges and candied mixed peel. This is a thick and viscous dram, which has a very luxurious mouthfeel. Through the development it becomes almost fizzy, as well as being quite bitter and acidic with lemon sherbet and rich oak tannins. This fizzy oak character dominates the palate but as with on the nose a drop of water has a huge effect. More sweetness comes across with a slight dilution with an earthy honeyed sweetness, dark chocolate liqueurs and a curl of wood smoke at the last.

Finish

On the finish the sweetness builds from the palate with a real hit of dried orange rings and cinder toffee. The oak is ever present with this whisky, and it is joined by an ashy/wood smoke note that I always get with aged Aberfeldy. The Finish is medium in length with a nice sweetness, which helps to balance the intense spice and wood.

Another very good distillery exclusive from Aberfeldy. They always have 2 different options at the distillery, one which has been matured in a refill barrel and the second is some form of Sherry matured Aberfeldy, be it finished or fully matured in ex Sherry Butts. This bottle of cask 21426 costs £90, which for a 16yo official single cask bottling is actually really well priced. If you are ever in the area I would definitely recommend popping in for a visit as it is a gorgeous distillery, even if just to check out what exclusives they have on offer at the time.

Sláinte

Gary

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Dallas Dhu 34yo – Gordon & MacPhail

I have recently returned from more whisky based adventures, this time at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – I would recommend everyone attend next year as it is a fabulous experience – and while up there I got the chance to try something very special indeed while sat in the Quaich bar. It is the sort of whisky that you will never forget, no matter how many whiskies you try in the future. It was a 34yo Dallas Dhu, bottled by Gordon and MacPhail.

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On our last night at the festival we attended a night of music, tall tales and whisky infused ramblings at the Quaich bar, in the Craigellachie Hotel. The night was hosted by Dave Broom and Lomond ‘Ziggy’ Campbell. It was very relaxed and casual event with banter, great music and of course…whisky! It was the perfect night to end our festival, but when one of my friends offers to buy us a round of Dallas Dhu, 34 years old, how could I possibly say no? It was an incredible dram, so full of flavour and character, and in that place, at that time, with those people around me; it was the best whisky I have ever tried. So good I decided I had to write about it, so that’s enough of this cheesy background story, let’s get into the review!

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Dallas Dhu is a legend of Speyside which, sadly, is no longer with us. It was terminally closed in 1983 by DCL and sold 3 years later to historic Scotland – Dallas Dhu is now a museum which you can visit, all the equipment is still in place but unfortunately nothing runs off the stills. It was built in 1898 as ‘Dallasmore’ by the then well-known Glasgow based blenders Wright & Greig Ltd. on land granted by the unsung hero of whisky Alexander Edwards. The distillery changed hands several times over the next 30 years or so before being acquired by DCL in 1929. They closed it the following year and remained closed for most of the 30’s, the stillhouse was destroyed by a fire in 1939 and it remained closed through World War 2. It eventually reopened in 1947 and during the 50’s and 60’s a lot of work was done to the distillery in order to modernise it and increase efficiency. When the whisky industry collapsed in the 1980’s this was one of the unfortunates on DCL’s hit list, sadly never to open again. Luckily though there are still a few casks hidden away and bottles on the market, they are just very expensive and few and far between. I’m going to enjoy this, a true part of Scotch whisky history.

Nose

This has got a hugely interesting nose for how old it is, it’s very fresh and vibrant and floral and nowhere near as oaky as you might expect. A grass/hay-like note appears first which is quickly accompanied by fresh herbal notes of oregano, rosemary and slight menthol note of spearmint leaves. Gentle tropical aromas push through the herbs with pineapple, over ripe banana, pineapple, yellow plum, did I say pineapple? With time sweeter biscuit-like characters start to appear with buttery digestive biscuits, shortbread and a dusty butterscotch smell – I do love some dusty butterscotch. Some milk chocolate mixes with the butterscotch and shortbread giving a note not dissimilar to millionaire shortbread. The chocolate is joined by some delicate spice in the form of ginger, anise and sweet cracked pink pepper. This has such an interesting nose and is one of the most floral and tropical drams I’ve had, pineapple syrup galore! This is a dram of cakes and puddings on the nose with pineapple upside-down cake, millionaire shortbread and banana bread. Wow!

Palate

Slightly sour and bitter initially on the palate but the sweetness comes through in a big way after a few seconds with apples, sweet malt and candied citrus peel. Millionaire shortbread again comes through – if you don’t know what this is it’s shortbread with caramel/toffee sauce and a layer of milk chocolate on top, another healthy Scottish delicacy! The millionaire shortbread is joined by desiccated coconut, stewed fruits (raisins and currants) and sultana loaf. It’s quite odd because it feels old, very old, but at the same time it is incredibly light and delicate. More floral, summer meadow-like flavours develop towards the back of the palate as does a greater sense of woody oak. At the last a subtle hint of sherry begins to come through.

Finish

Sweet oak and a light sweetness lead the charge with rich tannins, runny honey and icing sugar in the finish. That sherry note comes through too with more dried fruits, gentle spice and dark chocolate. The finish is super floral and green again, with hay, fresh cut grass, and pears and apples. At the back of the finish a slightly acidic note of over ripe grapes develops, to the point of being almost winey as it gently fades away in what is a fairly lengthy finish for being bottled at 43%.

Well there we have it, my scrawled thoughts on an incredible dram on a night of whisky, music and fun. This is my first ever taste of Dallas Dhu, and I hope it won’t be my last. It is sad to think that in the next few years this whisky will be gone forever once the last casks have been bottled. I’m glad I got to try this at least once, a dram of sweet and floral tropical goodness. I have no idea how much this bottle costs, if it is still available, but I’m not even going to look it up. I will keep the memory as it is, a perfect dram on a perfect night, with great company and music. Who knows, maybe one day smoke will rise again from the chimneys at Dallas Dhu and spirit may once again pour from the stills.

Sláinte

Gary