ABERLOUR SHOWS WHAT LIES BEHIND THE CRAFTING OF ITS RICH AND COMPLEX SINGLE MALT
A world-first series of super-macro images of whisky unveil the enigma behind the expert craft and natural beauty of the premium single malt, Aberlour.
The images have been taken by David Maitland, one of the world’s foremost nature photographers. Aberlour commissioned him to chart the journey of the whisky’s creation taking in microscopic views of the rock, water and wood used in the whisky-making process, such as the granite mountain from where the distillery takes its spring water, the oak staves from specially selected casks in which the whisky is matured, and finally uncovering never-before-seen glimpses of the single malt itself.
The photography uses a variety of techniques to capture some of the natural elements that contribute to the unique flavour of this single malt Scotch, from a glimpse inside each grain of barley to the actual rings from an oak cask and the crystalline structure of the final spirit itself.
The six images show:
Pink mountain granite from Ben Rinnes: water runs down Ben Rinnes over this impervious material which maintains the water’s purity and softness before it rises in springs close to the distillery
Spring water, soft and fresh, rising in the Birkenbush Wood and exclusively used for making the Aberlour single malt range
Malted Barley: specially prepared to provide the key sugars from which the whisky to be distilled – the platform for its unique flavour
Sherry cask: special oak casks sourced from Spain in which the spirit makes its transformation into Scotch whisky, made from European oak whose open grain has an unique influence during the years of maturation
The rich and sweet ‘Aberlour 12-year-old’ award winning single malt
A’bunadh: Aberlour’s expertly hand-crafted and uncompromising cask strength single malt
Dr Maitland, a European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, said: “I was asked to discover how all the different elements help craft Aberlour. The positioning of the distillery at the foot of Ben Rinnes, and surrounded by the natural water springs, plays a vital part in the creation of each bottle of single malt, as do the casks in which the whisky is aged. Having the chance to photograph this journey was a rare privilege.”
Aberlour single malt dates back to James Fleming, a local banker and philanthropist who founded the distillery in 1879. The whisky was crafted with James Fleming’s motto, ‘let the deed show’ in mind, which remains true today as the distillery allows unique depth of flavour to do the talking.
“Super macro photography can reveal many surprises. The crystal structures in the 12-year-old and A’bunadh were simply beautiful and frequently appeared to echo the unique and subtle characters of each whisky.” added David Maitland.
Aberlour’s Brand Director, Nikki Burgess, said: “Even for its distillers, single malt retains some mysteries. David’s photos have shown beyond the glass and cask and allowed us an insight into the natural elements and distillers’ craft which are vital to the creation of this enigmatic single malt. The photography has brilliantly captured the coming together of the natural elements and the expert craftsmanship of our distillers, while also maintaining the enigma behind the award-winning taste of Aberlour.”
The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester was the host of the biggest whisky festival outside of London, so big in fact that there had to be two floors filled with some cracking brands. The Whisky Lounge were the proud organisers for the 5th year in a row and had on offer the crème de la crème of the whisky world from both Scotland and Ireland, and even a few in Japan, India, England and America for good measure. Part of the Manchester Food & Drink Festival, there would be a host of seminars and masterclasses on offer including names such as Colin Dunn of Diageo and The Whisky Lounge founder Eddie Ludlow. This year I myself didn’t participate in any of the workshops on offer, but took full advantage of scanning the list for new additions, rare offerings and old favourites.
So, below, in order I sampled, I give to you my tasting notes on the days offerings –
Sultana, apple and chocolate notes on the nose, with lots of spice, treacle and dark chocolate blending well on the palate. Creates a very long finish.
Elements of Islay BR 4 – 54.7%
From Bruichladdich. Lots of sweet fruit notes on the nose, with the fruits moving straight onto the palate. Blended with a honeyed sweetness and a pepper finish.
William Grant’s Ale Cask Reserve – 40%
Smooth herbal nose with a little sweetness lingering. Edinburgh ale aromas on the palate, with the oak coming through more as it develops. Slight fudge and barley near the honey finish.
William Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve– 40%
Light and fruity on the nose, with a mix of honey and nuts present too. A well-balanced palate with dried fruits, spice, nuts and oak dancing nicely to a long finish.
Tullamore Dew – 40%
Lots of fruit and oats on the nose, with hints of sweet caramel coming through too. Hints of spice, sherry on the palate leads to a long caramel finish.
Tweeddale Batch 3 12yr– 46%
A great blend of apples and vanilla on the nose, with a sniff of raisin near the finish. The aromas follow onto the palate, with an added hint of ginger. A little kick of spice to finish.
Tweeddale Batch 4 14yr–
A light nose of dry lavender and herbs, with a palate that enjoys soft caramel blended with waves of spiced peat. Hints of salt and smoke come through as it finishes.
‘The Bomb’ Blended Malt – Oloroso Finish– 47.4%
A nose of fresh plums and raisins dominate, whilst sweet flavours of marzipan and spicy fruits blend well for a lingering finish.
‘The Bomb’ Blended Malt – Pedro Ximinez Finish – 45.4%
Lots of sweet fruits with dark berries on the nose, with a vanilla and fruit blend on the palate that creates a long finish.
The Salty Sea Dog – 46%
Fresh on the nose with plenty of sea salt and peaty smoke that carries onto the palate. Draws out a long, tangy yet defining finish with lingering peat and crunchy salt.
Springbank 10yr – 46%
Lots of oak and earth notes on the nose, with a more cereal base on the palate. Peat, nuts and smoke create a long, crisp finish.
Hazelburn 12yr– 46%
Very aromatic on the nose with dry fruits, sherry and toffee coming through. A little spicy on the palate, with cocoa, coffee and a hint of peat nearing the finish. A long finish.
English Whisky Chapter 13 – 49%
Hints of smoke on the nose, with a following of spice and dark chocolate. A creamy texture on the palate, with notes of vanilla and toffee blending with fruits to create a long, dry finish.
English Whisky Founders Private Cellar (Cask 0859)– 60.8%
Dark berry notes on the nose with a slight kick of cinnamon lingering on the finish. Black pepper flavours on the palate, moving to a creamy texture of fudge and vanilla. The spice returns for a long, dry finish.
Longmorn 12 Year Old (Gordon & MacPhail)– 40%
Lots of fruit on the nose with some oak aromas following. Plenty of citrus and orange flavours dominate the palate, creating a long, juicy finish that lasts for a while.
Atholl Brose – 35%
Light and fresh on the nose with a mix of ginger and citrus that doesn’t dominate and overpower too much. A light ginger flavour to begin, it develops nicely with an instant warming. Sweet ginger near the end as the soft velvet texture coats your mouth.
Girvan Patent Still Single Grain 25yr – 42%
Light aroma on the nose of caramelised fruits, with good doses of toffee, honey and rich vanilla on the palate as they blend well to create a lingering dram.
Hakushu 12yr –43.5%
Fresh nose of green fruit with a whisp of smoke lingering. Sweetness on the palate, with pear dominating and the soft smoke creating a dry texture.
Hibiki 12yr – 43%
Lots of pineapple and plum aromas blending nicely on the nose and following through onto the palate to create a soft and sweet flavour. A little spice on the end.
Bold notes of vanilla and spice on the nose with hints of sweet ginger following. Roasted nuts and vanilla flavours are present on the palate, creating a long, not-wanting-to-end finish.
Aberlour 16yr – 43%
Dry but rich on the nose with spice and raisins dominating. Quite sweet on the palate with a soft plum and long oak finish.
Rock Town Brandon’s Small Batch Gin – 46%
Very fresh with lots of citrus on the nose. Plenty of juniper, with subtle spice wandering around. A little dry on the palate, with coriander noticeable, and angelica following. A kick of spice to finish a long offering.
Rock Town Arkansas Young Bourbon – 46%
Aromas of fresh corn on the nose, with some dried fruits and spices present on the palate. A little hint of oak on the long, long finish.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask – 48%
Butter, toffee and raisin are present on the nose, surrounded by scented oil. A sweet start on the palate, but a huge kick of heat with iodine and fruit coming into play. A shorter finish than what you expect.
Laphroaig 18yr – 48%
Toffee nose with hints of cereal and spice leads to a warm yet rounded flavour of smoke and liquorice on the palate. A long, rich toffee finish.
Cardhu 12yr– 40%
Sweet, rich aromas of white fruit on the nose. Well-rounded on the palate, with a good dose of smooth peat and whispers of smoke on this long dram.
Some fantastic whiskies on offer yet again at the Manchester leg of the show. There’s some on the list above that I probably will never get round to trying again so to attend a show like this can really throw towards you some real gems. Highlights for me include Rock Town Arkansas Young Bourbon, Auchentoshan 18yr, Hakushu 12yr and English Whisky Founders Private Cellar (Cask 0859).
If you like whisky, then you will love attending these festivals. If you’re not a lover, you can be pointed into the direction of some of the more introductory whiskies on offer in the world. This is the best thing about this category – love it or hate it, there will always be something to convert or possibly soften your initial thought.
Aberlour is a Speyside whisky that I have had the pleasure of coming across several times. The nature of my job can sometimes bring together many a whisky note, but never a fully fledged piece on the brands in question. Well it’s about time I write a little bit on one of these names that you may see keep popping up.
As mentioned, Aberlour is situated in the Speyside region of Scotland, and is steeped in history. Aberlour is an ancient place, a fact that is celebrated via the picture of an oak tree on the Aberlour label. Why an oak tree? Well a long time ago, a druid community lived in the valley. Water and oak trees were important to the druids’ culture, resulting in the oak tree becoming the Aberlour symbol. Fast-forward a few years to around AD 580 where a missionary, St Drostan, established himself at the Aberlour site. He used the spring water to baptise local people and to this day, the spring water from the very same source is used to produce Aberlour.
Aberlour itself was founded by a gentleman named James Fleming. Born in 1830 and the son of a local farmer, he became a grain dealer and supplied many whisky distillers. This interaction encouraged him to establish his own distillery, and so acquired land at Aberlour, the same land that housed the spring water mentioned above. The year 1879 saw the beginning of the distillery taking shape, with Fleming designing most of the buildings and machinery himself, and within a year had its first flow of whisky.
1895 saw the death of James Fleming, and three years later a fire destroyed several of the distillery buildings and most of the whisky stocks. Under the supervision of Scotland’s foremost designer of whisky distilleries, Charles Doig of Elgin, the Aberlour Distillery was rebuilt.
With the spring water that flows from the slopes of Ben Rinnes and along the Lour Valley, to the double casking (whisky is matured separately in specially selected ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry butts, then, when it has come to age, the whisky from the two sets of casks is brought together), a rather splendid range comes to fruition. With this, below, I give to you my tasting notes on the drams I have had the pleasure of coming across –
Aberlour 12yr – Non Chill-filtered – 48%
Rich raisin and fig aromas on the nose, dark chocolate a plenty, with soft caramel following. Very soft on the palate, with nuts, caramel, dark fruits and hints of cinnamon creating a well blended long finish.
Aberlour 12yrDouble Cask Matured– 40%
Soft red apples on the nose that flows onto the palate and blends with ginger, cinnamon and rich chocolate. Creates a warm, sweet finish that lingers.
Aberlour 16yr Double Cask Matured – 40%
Dry but rich on the nose with spice and raisins dominating. Quite sweet on the palate with a soft plum and long oak finish.
Aberlour 18yr – 43%
Subtle soft, dry fruits with vanilla and light honey on the nose. Plenty of oak, with hints of sherry that dries the palate. Orange and vanilla blend well to create a soft entry of flavour. Lingering finish.
Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 33 – 60.9%
Lots of sherry notes on the nose hitting the senses left, right and centre, with plenty of bursts on every breath. Spicy flavours coat the palate, but its enjoyed on a silky smooth texture caused by the sherry casks.
Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 35– 60.3%
Very floral on the nose that develops into an instant spice flavour on the palate. A rather hot tang follows into a dry finish.
Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 41– 59%
Lots of spice and rich orange combine well on the nose and continue on to the palate with ginger and chocolate flavours coming through. A bitter oak and sherry end.
Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 45 – 60.2%
Plenty of sherry aromas on the nose, with cocoa and hints of orange following. A developing warm spice on the palate, with ginger and raisins coming through. Delicate, long, and very warming on the finish.
Aberlour a’Bunadh Batch 47 – 60.7%
Well balanced sherry and orange aromas on the nose. Light, with a developing warmth and spice on the palate. Plenty of sherry, with hints of ginger sliding in on the lingering finish.