Aberfeldy 21 year-old single malt whisky is from the distillery of the same name, located in, funnily enough, the town of Aberfeldy, Perthshire, in the southern Highlands.
The Aberfeldy Distillery was established in 1896 and construction was completed two years later. Started by John and Tommy Dewar, the distillery was built specifically to produce single malt for their blended White Label whisky. In 1925 the distillery was sold to Diageo and it remained in their portfolio until 1998 when it was purchased by Bacardi.
Compared to so many other Scottish distilleries of the era, Aberfeldy has had a relatively stable existence. Although it was closed briefly during World War I due to a barley shortage and also served as a hospital during the Second World War, the distillery has continued to produce whisky. No doubt the stability is tied to Aberfeldy’s central role in the production of the Dewar’s blends, one of the world’s best selling brands.
Today, the distillery continues to supply whisky for Dewar’s blends, pumping out in the neighborhood of 3.5 million liters a year. Slowly, however, Aberfeldy has begun offering a small selection of official releases as stand-alone single malts. In 1991, Aberfeldy released their first “official” bottling, a 15 year-old for the Flora and Fauna Series. The 21 year-old was first released in 2005. Now Aberfeldy offers a 12 year-old and the 21 year olds as their standard range.
As far as official releases of 21 year-old single malt whiskies go, at least in this era of escalating prices, the Aberfeldy 21 year-old can still be found at a rather reasonable price point (at least around here) of about $135-$150. Bottled at 40% abv, this whisky is chill-filtered and likely has added e150a caramel coloring, although neither the label nor the distillery’s website provides any information.
(Neat) Nose: The nose starts subtly fruity and with a big note of creamy honey. A nicely soft oakiness brings some delicate spice notes – pepper and cinnamon. The fruits continue to evolve; apple juice, a hint of canned pineapple, banana, red apples. Slight hints of dried grass or cereal grains.
Taste: Fruity, sweet, creamy but thinnish arrival. Honeyed fruits with a sprinkling of baking spices. Apples, bananas. A dash of peppery heat. Saigon cinnamon, bread dough. Nice, but simple.
(Water) Nose: Water brings our more of the honeyed sweetness. The spice notes also pick up initially, but settle again after a few minutes. Remains focused on sweet malt, ripe red apples, some banana, and just a hint of pineapple.
Taste: As with the nose, water increases the honey as well as the spice notes, particularly the peppery bite that hits mid-palate. Malty, fruity, honeyed and softly spiced with, perhaps, just the slightest hint of smoke.
Finish: Sweet honey and fruity, malty, and some peppery spice. Grows slightly more tannic. Medium length.
Overall: Fruity, malty and sweet, but with an oily, but relatively thin-ish body, this is an elegant, inoffensive, “smooth”, and relatively un-complex whisky. It has good structure and you can certainly make the connection to Dewar’s blends, which share the delicate honey and fruit notes. Sadly, the 40% abv is a bit under-strength and water only serves to emphasize the low abv, and really isn’t needed. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice very aspects to this whisky, but I wouldn’t call it a stand-out as a single malt, especially for a 21 year-old whisky. For anyone looking for big complexity, this one may disappoint. At the same time, this is a whisky that, like their blends, will have some mass appeal and would serve very well as an introduction to Scotch whisky.
Distillery: Aberfeldy (Bacardi)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 21 year-old (bottled 2012)
Maturation: Not disclosed. Chill-filtered and likely colored with e50a.
Availability: Available in the US through specialty retailers. Total Wine, True Spirits, Specs all carry it locally.
Sample Source: My own bottle