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Philip Day provides a fascinating overview of Aberfeldy – Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky.


Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

 

Owned by

The distillery is operated by John Dewar and Sons (BACARDI LIMITED)

Address

Aberfeldy Distillery, Aberlfeldy, Perthshire Scotland PH15 2EB

 

Founded in 1896

Telephone

 

Email:

Phone: +44 (0)1887 822010

 

AberfeldyDistillery@Dewars.com 

Current status Active

Web-site

 

www.dewars.com

Capacity (Litres of finished whisky per annum) 3,500,000 litres per annum

Visitor Centre

 

Yes

 

It’s a shame that the single malt whiskies produced at the Aberfeldy Distllery aren’t more widely known. Anyone who professes not to like the taste of whisky would undoubtedly get a taste for Aberfeldy 21 year old, while aficionados would certainly like their range of single malt expressions a lot.

 

Although it may not have international cachet status, Aberfeldy is the largest malt whisky component of Dewar’s White Label Blended Whisky, which is perhaps one of the iconic names in blended whisky.

 

History

The Aberfeldy Distillery was founded by the Dewar brothers Tommy and John in 1896, who had hired Charles Cree Doig, who many consider as the finest distillery architect, to design it for them, subsequently opening in 1898. It is situated in the centre of Scotland, some five miles east of Loch Tay and the town of Kenmore and about eight miles south of Loch Tummel. Known as the ‘golden dram’, Aberfeldy draws its water from the fresh water stream, the Pitilie Burn. Pure and fresh, its waters are famed for containing small deposits of alluvial gold. It is the only distillery in Scotland to make use of these waters.

 

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

 

From the outset, the vast majority of the distillery’s output was used for blending. One of the reasons that the brand is little known is the fact that only a small percentage of the 2.5 million litres of whisky produced there every year is released as a single malt under the Aberfeldy name.

 

Aberfeldy’s ownership passed to the Distillers Company Ltd in 1925, when it merged with John Dewar & Sons. The same production model continued with all of the distillery’s output turned into blended whisky. In doing so, the boom market in single malt whisky passed Aberfeldy by. Indeed, as Dewar’s became one of the most frequently consumed whiskies in the world, the distillery was expanded in 1972 and the old stills were replaced by four new steam heated stills in order to increase whisky production.

 

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

 

However in March 1998 ownership of John Dewar & Sons was transferred (along with four other distilleries) from Diageo plc to Bacardi Ltd , who up until this point had only a minor interest in the whisky market. The result of which was a wave of investment, that saw an increased product range and at the same time gave the brand back more of its family ethos and in doing so it has found its way back to its former glory.

 

1999 saw the launch of Aberfeldy 12 year old single malt, followed closely by the opening of the distillery’s visitor’s centre ‘Dewar’s World of Whisky’ in 2000, which emphasises the heritage of the brand and the Dewar family, with the aid of the latest interactive technology.

 

A 25 year old single malt expression was initially released in 2000 but it was superseded by the currently available 21 year old in 2005.

 

A number of highly regarded single cask bottlings have also been marketed over the past decade to showcase the single malt at its most distinctive best.

 

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

 

The majority of Aberfeldy whisky is still used in the blending of Dewar’s White Label, which remains the world’s leading blended whisky but the market strategy of Bacardi sees Aberfeldy being marketed not only as an upmarket single malt brand but also as ‘the spiritual home of Dewar’s whisky’. (Indeed, Dewar’s remains the leader in the blended Scotch whisky category in the US and sales for Aberfeldy single malt have increased by over 400%, selling around 25,000 cases per year.)

 

Displaying a classic central Highland style rarely tasted in single malts today Aberfeldy single malts are much admired for their honeyed notes, malty balance and elegant flavours, with a long complex finish.

 

Named ‘Highland Whisky of the Year 2014’ by ‘Whisky Magazine’, Aberfeldy has been recently repackaged and is available globally as a 12-year-old and a 21-year-old expression, with an 18-year-old sold along with miniature bottles of Aberfeldy water exclusively available in travel retail.

 

The Aberfeldy core portfolio includes:

  • Aged 12 years (40% ABV)
  • Aged 18 years old(40% ABV), travel retail outlets only
  • Aged 21 years old (40% ABV), limited run of 9,000 bottles
  • Single Cask Aged 21 years (55.3% ABV)
  • Single Cask Unravel 30 (56.5% ABV)
  • Aberfeldy 1999 (bottled 2014) (46% ABV). Part of the Connoisseurs Choice collection from Gordon & MacPhail, this Aberfeldy single malt Scotch whisky was distilled in 1999 and left to mature in Sherry hogsheads. It was bottled in 2014.
  • Other older single cask bottlings

 

My Personal Selection

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aberfeldy Aged 12 Year Old 

 40% ABV

 

Colour

 

Clear golden amber

 

Aroma

Sweet, creamy cereal notes mingle with some sherried or stewed fruit with a trailing hint of smoke.


Taste

Sweet but smooth, malty with a gentle peat flavours however the overall mouth feel is very clean 

Finish

 

A medium to long complex finish with a lingering hint of smoke mixed with the sweetness of the malt and a faint hint of citrus that becomes more spicy and drying. 

A solid performer that is possibly one of the better ‘entry-level’ single malts available on the current market.

 

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aberfeldy Aged 21 Year Old 

 a 40% strength ABV ‘Distillery Bottled’ Single Malt Whisky.

Launched in October of 2005, this 21 year old is the flagship for the Aberfeldy range.

 

Colour

 

Warmer gold and deeper amber in colour than its 12 year old younger sibling

Aroma

Everything you expect from the brand flagship expression. Honeyed light flowery nose, with a hint of malty spice animated by a fresh, zesty quality. 


Taste

The initial sip gives a smooth, mellow taste of vanilla, with caramel toffee. Lightly smoked spices undercut by a tangy fruitiness that lends balance to the whole. 

Finish

 

A trademark warm spicy finish, that fades gently, with a good wave of honeyed sweetness. 

 

Aberfeldy - Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aberfeldy Aged 18 Year Old 

 a 40% strength ABV ‘Distillery Bottled’ Single Malt Whisky.

 

Colour

 

Golden amber / copper

Aroma

Very relaxed. Honey sweet with hints of vanilla, caramel and oranges and a whiff of malted barley


Taste

A rewarding mouth-feeling. Gentle but multi-layered: peppery malt with a touch of vanilla, enveloped in a Seville orange marmalade syrup.

Finish

 

A quite long finish. Creamy vanilla sweetness with notes of smoked chocolate and a thin slice of fresh lime.


 

Aberfeldy in the news:

  • April 2014: Bacardi expands its Aberfeldy Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky brand with the launch of an 18-year-old global travel retail exclusive.

Quoted for an interview for thespiritsbusiness.com, Mike Birch, managing director of Bacardi global travel retail stated: 

“Single malts are enjoying a massive surge in popularity right now as collectors and connoisseurs seek out the new and the rare. We’re leveraging that power with a strong innovation pipeline for the category, gathering pace to craft a range of superb travel retail exclusives.”

“Building on our success in white spirits, we are equally ambitious as a major player in the whisky category and our recent launches are testament to the energy and drive we’ll be injecting. We’re confident the Aberfeldy range is set for success.”

 

  • 2014: Quoted in an item for thedrinksreport.com, the Aberfeldy range has undergone a bottle and package redesign by Stranger & Stranger to ‘reflect the hand-crafted nature’ of Aberfeldy Single Malt with the use of deep black and gold.

The Gold lettering is meant to represent the birthplace of John Dewar and the whisky’s water source, the Pitilie Burn, where sedimentary gold has been found through the centuries.

The bottles display a Royal Warrant, which has been held by John Dewar & Sons since 1893, the only Scotch whisky distiller to continuously hold a Royal Warrant since the reign of Queen Victoria.

 

  • November, 2014: 

At the DFS fourth annual Masters of Wines and Spirits event held in Singapore on 8 November, 2014, an ultra-premium Scotch single malt whisky, the Aberfeldy Gold of Pitilie 28 year old, the oldest and rarest commercial bottling in the Aberfeldy distillery’s 116-year history was put on sale – it sold out completely in less than three hours.

Just eight bottles were created, drawn from a single hand- selected 1985 Vintage Cask at the distillery and hand bottled directly from the cask. Each bottle was decorated in 22-carat gold, and the stopper featured delicate flakes of Scottish gold that had been panned by hand, according to Bacardi. Individual fretwork metal elements were assembled around a centrepiece of the distillery icon, designed to represent the natural flora found around the Pitilie Burn, which were attached to the bottle with the age ‘28’ incorporated within the filigree work. 

No more of that 1985 cask will ever be released, thereby guaranteeing the rarity of the edition. No wonder then that each bottle sold for US $4,888 (£2,600)

 

  • 2015: 

Bacardi also has plans to launch an Aberfeldy 16-year-old sherry finish and an Aberfeldy 30-year-old single malt expression in 2015.

 

References:

  • Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015, Murray, J, 2014,Dram good books Limited, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK.
  • Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2014, Murray, J, 2013,Dram good books Limited, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK.
  • Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ronde I, 9th Revised edition, 2013, MagDig Media Limited, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, UK.
  • 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, Buxton, I, 2010, Hachette Scotland, London, UK
  • http://www.malts.com
  • http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com
  • http://www.whiskeywise.com
  • http://www.whiskycritic.com ?http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk
  • http://www.dewars.com
  • http://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/dewars-world-of-whisky-p421491
  • http://www.thedrinksreport.com/news/2014/15644-john-dewar-to-launch-last-great-malts-range.html
  • http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2014/04/bacardi-launches-aberfeldy-18yo-scotch/
  • http://www.whiskyforeveryone.com/whisky_distilleries/scotland/aberfeldy.html
  • http://www.moodiereport.com/document.php?doc_id=42133
  • http://www.frontiermagazine.co.uk/article/duty-free-alcohol/aberfeldy-gold-pitilie-28yo-compels-dfs-master-spirits-gold-rush/

 

About the author

Philip Day is an early-retired academic in linguistics who has published many articles.

A North-Midlander (The Potteries) by birth, he currently lives close to the Lancashire Pennines which he regularly explores with his Patterdale terrier, Max.

 

In particular he has a keen interest in European fine wines and good food and will be contributing further articles in the future for Escapementmagazine.com.

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