Early in my whisky journey and well before my trip to Scotland, I had tried Aberlour 12 and was underwhelmed. But we had a good tour at Aberlour and an excellent tasting at the end, and I remember being more enamored of their product at that time. So it is time to revisit and do a proper review.
Aberlour was established by one James Fleming in 1880, an enterprising man who pursued various businesses to become a prominent local landowner and philanthropist. For instance, he funded the building of the Victoria Bridge, which spans the river Spey not far from the distillery (I’ve got a photo in my Aberlour tour post). The distillery has passed to multiple hands and since 1975 has been a part of Pernod Ricard.
The 12-year expression is ‘double cask matured’ in sherry seasoned and oak casks. Their web site and bottle labeling are not entirely clear on whether they age in the sherry casks for a full 12 years and marry those with ex-bourbon casks, but that appears to be the case given the text on the carton back (see photo at left, click to enlarge). The bottle is a stout, rounded shape with a handy bulge in the neck that makes for steady pours. Labeling is understated. The effect is classy and restrained.
Upon opening the bottle there’s a pleasant whiff of fruit, quite a solid nose. Wafting just above the glass you’ll get that red-apple and aged grape you’d expect from a sherried whisky, but also some tangerine. That’s a pleasant surprise. The deeper structure reveals clean mineral, like a granite waterfall, not a funky burn. It is a clean, crisp nose with just a hint of vanilla. On the palate, it’s a little buttery in texture and much sweeter than the nose, as vanilla and even marshmallow lead before the citrus makes its way forward. The finish stays sweet, as the tannins are quite laid back, with a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon just peeking through at the end. Definitely more going there than I noted first time ’round so I am glad I gave it another go.
Aberlour 12-year Speyside Whisky, 40% ABV
Nose: Clean and crisp with a red apple and aged grape nose, tangerine, granite. Hints of vanilla.
Palate: Smooth, sweet at first with lots of vanilla and marshmallow, followed by citrus.
Finish: A good length, fairly simple: sweet, hints of tangerine and some Christmas spice at the end.
Bottom Line: Considering how expensive everything is these days, at about $52 locally, the Aberlour 12 is a good deal for a 12-year single malt. That is a couple bucks less than the Glenfarclas 12 (a fully sherried single malt) and Highland Park 12, which is a good ‘any day’ Scotch if you want a hint of smoke. But it does not have quite the depth of those two. Aberlour’s 12-year is mellow and sweet, so it would pair well as a dessert whisky—with with banana cream pie, for example. The Aberlour 12 would also be a good entree malt for someone who’s never had single malt Scotch and has trepidation in that regard.