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Aberfeldy (pronounced: ab-er-FEL-dee) distillery has, for a long time, been the somewhat low-key malt behind Dewars whisky. Tucked away in Perthshire on the east coast of Scotland it is something of a forgotten curiosity to many malt aficionados. This is probably to do with the lack of diversity in the available bottlings. Aberfeldy was never widely bottled by the independents and official examples rarely step outside the 12 and 21yo expressions. This is a great shame because Aberfeldy has a very elegant and robust profile that fits its location in some of the gentler parts of the highlands very snugly. More malty and sinewy than a Speysider but not a coastal or wax driven powerhouse like its more extreme northern cousins, it has always been a very drinkable malt with an unassuming individuality.
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit
Capacity: 2.1 Million Litres
Water Source: Pitilie Burn
1960-1973: Transitional Era.
In 1960 Aberfeldy was a small two still distillery the fell into place with many others in the post war era of Scottish distilling. In that year the first of several changes took place, the stills were converted to mechanical stoking. There are very few bottlings of Aberfeldy from this era so it is difficult to say anything about its character but it is fairly safe to say that given the old style nature of its production and location it would be a fairly robust and old fashioned highland spirit with a much more waxy, herbaceous and fruit driven profile than current bottlings.
1973-Present: Modernisation and Stepping Out.
Between 1972 and 1973 the distillery was rebuilt and refitted with four new stills, all of which now had internal steam heating and new shell condensers in place of the old worm tubs. The oldest bottlings of Aberfeldy mostly date from this era of distillation, including a very beautiful 1975 by Cadenheads. There is also a variety of bottlings from other independents dating from different years in the seventies to be found.
These bottlings all display Aberfeldy’s signature characteristics of sinewy malt, biscuity sweetness, fresh green apples, herbs and light spicy tones. It is a very rounded and easy to drink profile that also manages to carry enough complexity to be entertaining at the same time. If you get a chance to visit the distillery you will see that its profile very much suits the gentle nature of its location.
In 1998 Aberfeldy was bought from Diageo by Bacardi, Diageo had never released any bottlings of Aberfeldy except for the (very tasty) Flora and Fauna 15yo in 1991. Under the new ownership of Bacardi and attachment to the Dewars brand a 12yo was soon launched, closely followed by a 21 and occasionally a 25yo. These bottlings are fairly consistent and give strong and flavoursome examples of the make without any overt wood technology or silly cask influences. They are obviously well put together bottlings with strong cask selection.
If possible, the best examples of Aberfeldy to try are ones at full strength with a little more age behind them. The best examples I have tried were from the early eighties at full strength, they had a wonderfully precise herbaceous quality with excellent garden fruits and an elegant oiliness, the epitome of perfectly balanced, complex, modern whisky. Lets hope they will continue to quietly nurture Aberfeldy in the same way for years to come. It is a rare distillery without too much of a sense of grandiose or self-importance, something to be commended in this day and age.