I recently found myself in the town of Aberfeldy for a couple of days. During my time there the sun split the skies and we enjoyed temperatures rarely seen in the highlands of Scotland. I even got a little burnt in the sunshine. Sun-burn? In Perthshire!? Anyway, the beautiful weather almost made me think twice about visiting the distillery there but, like the trooper I am I soldiered on and got the job done. It’s a tough life.
Aberfeldy Distillery is owned by John Dewar & Sons (itself part of Bacardi-Martini) and produces single malt which mostly goes into the Dewar’s blend. The Distillery was founded by John Dewar’s two sons in 1896 but the Dewar’s name was already well known as a blender by this time. Today a limited amount of the liquid is available as a single malt with 12 year old, 16 year old, 18 year old and 21 year old expressions available.
The distillery itself is somewhat of a tourist attraction with a dedicated ‘World of Whisky’ Museum devoted to the Dewar’s brand attached to the visitor centre. The tour follows the usual routine and walks you through each stage of the production process, my usual luck was with me on the day and we were advised that we would be unable to access the still-room due to ‘unexpected maintenance work’ being carried out, to give them credit though they knocked a little off the price. The cost of the tour included a dram of either Dewar’s 12 year old blend, Dewar’s White Label or Aberfeldy 12 year old. I opted to pay a little extra (about £7 more) in order to try a dram straight from the cask in the warehouse. This turned out to be a 1989 vintage of 27 years old – and I got to keep my glass. On that note, it was nice to be allowed into the warehouse but disappointing to be told that it was mostly for show and much of the whisky was matured elsewhere. Such is the way of things for many distilleries today.
The Dewar’s World of Whisky museum is unlike anything I’ve seen at any other distillery. It starts with a video in one of the plushest cinema rooms you’ll see in any tourist facility and then releases you into an atmospheric walk through the history of Dewar & Sons. There are old advertisements to peruse, cabinets of retro bottle designs to admire and time capsules inserted in the floor which give an impression of the length of time since the birth of this brand. Probably the highlight for me was the Library. A grand room done up to look like a period office or study, complete with shelves full of encyclopedia brittanica volumes and various other tomes. On the desk there’s plans for Aberfeldy distillery and an enticing looking decanter filled with glittering, golden liquid… Alas it was fixed shut (of course I checked!). You are free to walk through the museum and explore at your own pace and you really can go as in depth as you like. Each drawer in the study reveals more information to take in. Then, once you are satisfied you exit into a well designed cafe and shop area complete with whisky bar.
So while the tour was perhaps nothing out of the ordinary it is a beautiful, well maintained site with an interesting museum attached and pleasant Cafe in which to pass some time and I thoroughly recommend you pay it a visit should you find yourself in the area.
Before I went on my merry way I picked up a bottle of the Aberfeldy 12 year old single malt to bring home and review. On the nose there’s Fudge, Honey and Vanilla with Toffee, Apple and Pear. The palate also has creamy Vanilla, Honeycomb, Caramel and Toffee with some Cinnamon Spice. A good example of a lighter Highland single malt.
The Scores: About the scoring system…
Smell: 16.5 / 20. Not the most complex and a little dominated by that Vanilla Fudge Character but pleasant all the same.
Taste: 15.5 / 20. More one dimensional here with less complexity than the nose. What it does it does well enough though.
Value for Money: 8 / 10. Usually around £30 – £35 a bottle so very much in the affordable catgegory.
Overall: 40.5 / 50. Not the boldest of flavour profiles but it’s nice to mix it up a bit and this lighter style is a welcome change from some of the ‘louder’ bottles in my collection – and there can be few complaints at £30 a bottle.