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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Single Malt Report: Aberlour 12 year old VOHM brandy bottle ('80s - '90s bottling)

Looking for one easy way to tell when the whisky industry's finances are a little low?  Take note of when they try to make their products mimic other popular spirits.  Today we have blends mimicking bourbon flavors, see Dewar's Scratched Cask and Barrelhound.  Back in the down days of the 1980s and 1990s, a few companies made their packaging look just like brandy bottles.  For instance: Balvenie and Balvenie.  Aberlour appeared to have tried to one-up Balvenie during the same time period.  Not only did their product look like a cheap bottle of Martell or Remy, but they even created a fake VSOP-like acronym for their label.  V.O.H.M., as in Very Old Highland Malt, was never used before or since.  Of course, because they gave their 10 and 12 year old that designation, the whisky was not very old, but now I'm just nitpicking.
Here's a great bottle pic from TWE
I was lucky enough to get a sample of this whisky from an LA Scotch Club event last year, and recently tried it alongside the current Aberlour 12yo (reviewed on Tuesday) for some perspective.

Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Bottle code: L51415, could it be 1985?
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? Probably not

Its color is much paler than the contemporary 12yo Double Cask.

Lots of fruits lead off in the nose.  There's peach Jolly Rancher, mango nectar, and a big note of fuji apples.  Then jasmine blossoms, vanilla, and salty air.  Some wool and a hint of leather couch.  With time it gets maltier and also develops some nifty notes of wood smoke and band aids.

The palate is musty and malty, very reminiscent of (the untainted version of) the 1980s Suntory Royal SR.  There's hard toffee candy, loquats, and lemon zest.  It slowly develops a Campari-like bitter note.

The finish is a bit brief.  But it's malty, full of apricots, and French oak-like wood spice.

A very pleasant whisky, this 12yo is a league ahead of the current version.  Nothing really jumps out as spectacular at any point, but the nose is very good, especially once it's aired out.  The finish is a little disappointing, but the palate is perfectly fine.  There's not much in the way of sherry going on here, but there are some nice phenolics in the nose.  Though this was bottled during the whisky glut, I didn't get the sense that they stuffed older whisky in here.

Not many other reviews of this online.  There's Andy of LAWS who didn't care for it; there's the whiskybase community who've graded it but haven't reviewed it; and there's Serge, of course, who liked it but found more sherry action than I did.  In any case, if you have a bottle or find one sitting around, I recommend (as always) that you drink it, not flip it.  Just set your ExpectationMeter™ to Moderate and you won't be disappointed.

Availability - Secondary market or maybe collecting dust on a shelf
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83


  1. For the record, I like those old Balvenie brandy bottles but man would that first bottle design be a pain to hold and pour.

    I really should get around to trying the other bottles in the Aberlour range but I've really stuck with A'bunadh simply because it's the one I really like. And I'm guessing you've got a sample of A'bunadh next in the reviews.

    1. There will indeed at least two posts on the a'bunadhs. One of those Balvenie bottles looks like a Calvados and the other one looks kinda like an Armenian brandy.