Last week saw the end of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – five days of events across Scotland’s most densely packed whisky-producing region. We watched enviously as tweets, Facebook posts and the occasional bragging text message told tales of great whisky, music, food and general shenanigans. So as not to feel left out, we’ve been having our own minimalistic Speyside whisky festival at TWE HQ, with one very special new bottling.
Announcing our latest exclusive: Aberlour 16 years old, single first-fill sherry cask #4738.
Sat at the southern end of the town of Charlestown of Aberlour in the heart of Speyside, Aberlour has been producing whisky since 1879. A classic Speysider, it’s best known these days for sherry-matured drams – including the category-defining small-batch cask-strength sherry monster A’Bunadh – and when the distillery offered us the chance to select an exclusive single cask, the choice was clear: first-fill sherry.
While we love bourbon-cask-matured whisky – and our last exclusive was a first-fill-bourbon-matured 16-year-old Highland Park 1999 – the opportunity to grab a whole sherry cask for ourselves was too good to miss. It’s not chill-filtered and the colour is all natural – it looks amazing and the taste doesn’t disappoint:
Nose: Rich and sticky, with cinder toffee, caramel sauce and vanilla-rich milk chocolate to start. Weighty and fruity notes of spiced raisins, warm leather, molasses, stewed plums, dates and flamed orange zest develop, with spicy cloves and hints of autumn forest.
Palate: Initially softer than the nose suggests, but after a burst of sweet berry fruit, prickly intensity rolls in. Spice – nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, anise and liquorice root – is joined by stewed fruit and rich Christmas-pudding sweetness. Savoury notes develop: charcoal, dark leather, tobacco and damp oak, but behind everything is a butter-and-brown-sugar sweetness, with flashes of marzipan-iced fruit cake.
Water: It can take water well, evening out both the sweet and savoury notes, leaving liquorice, blackcurrant jam and fruit cake.
Finish: Long and rich, with sweet stewed fruit and black liquorice slowly becoming savoury and revealing earthy dunnage warehouse notes and ashy barrel char.
Comment: An intense but well-balanced sherry-matured dram, marrying Aberlour’s weighty spirit with a punchy cask. It’s a bit of a beast, but the years of maturation have helped it mellow, dropping the strength to an eminently manageable 53.5% ABV and rounding off the rougher edges sometimes found in A’Bunadh to reveal the distillery’s fruity character.