A visit to Aberlour (Plus Casg Annamh Review)

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A traditional Speyside distillery

Aberlour distillery stands on the outskirts of the town that shares its name, in the heart of Speyside. Built in 1879 by James Fleming, the distillery is now part of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers portfolio along with the likes of Strathisla and the world famous Glenlivet distillery.

Aberlour is a small and rather quaint distillery when compared to its gigantic neighbours. Indeed, as I approached the gates on a warm Sunday morning, the contrast between this and the new Macallan distillery I visited 24 hours earlier could not have been greater. Tradition seems to seep from the walls, giving the impression that little has changed since Fleming’s day. Indeed, the man himself lies buried in the cemetery across the road, no doubt keeping an eye on his creation even now.

For a very reasonable £15, visitors can tour the plant and taste six expressions of the malt produced here, including a pair of 12 year old offerings which aren’t available anywhere else. Commencing with some details of the buildings origins as a sawmill, aided by visual displays, the tour then moves on to a traditional walk-through of the production area, including a visit to the still house at the very heart of the operation. The journey culminates in a visit to the famous No. 1 warehouse which rests behind what must be one of the most photographed doors in Scotland.

It was an informative and fun tour, ably led by guide Nicola who clearly held a passion for the subject herself, something which can’t be said for every tour guide I’ve come across, sadly. Cruelly made to work on the Sunday morning following the annual Highland Games and the celebrations which follow, Nicola regaled with tales of her grandfather, once the mill-man at the distillery, and something of a character by all accounts and her grandmother, who’s Clootie Dumplings could contain anything up to a full bottle of whisky, depending on how much she consumed herself during the making of the thing.

Such stories highlight the distillery’s place in the local community. Whisky is the very lifeblood of this part of Scotland, with just about everyone in the area touched by it in one way or another and an understanding of this is a great thing to take away from a distillery tour.

Aberlour is a charming distillery, attractive to look at and an intriguing learning experience to boot. It should be high on the bucket list of any connoisseur who turns their eye toward Speyside.

The Whisky

Casg Annamh is the latest release from Aberlour, positioned as something of a replacement for the recently ‘premiumised’ A’Bunadh. ‘Significantly influenced’ by Oloroso sherry casks, it is bottled at 48% and cost £55 a bottle.

Smell: Caramel and Honey, Dried Fruits, Vanilla and lots of Orange, even Dark Chocolate.

Taste: Juicy Raisins, Chocolate Orange and Winter Spices with Salted Caramel and a touch of Oak.

Thoughts: At £55, Casg Annamh won’t break the bank and there’s enough flavour and depth of character on offer to make it a worthwhile purchase. It’s almost impossible not to compare Casg Annamh to the A’Bunadh, which used to be similarly priced. It certainly isn’t in the same league and I can’t see it becoming as popular as its predecessor but it is, nevertheless, a very pleasant dram in its own right.

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