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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Single Malt Report: Aberlour 12 year old Double Cask Matured (current label, 40%abv)

Late last year, I looked at my Big Whisky List and noticed I'd reviewed only two Aberlours.  Both were indies, both were single ex-bourbon casks.  Since I prefer ex-bourbon cask Aberlour, and their official range has no all-bourbon-cask product, I find the indies to be a good source for an Aberlour fix.  But I have in my possession samples of five official Aberlours here, some current, some old.  So join me in a little Aberlour catch-up over the next two weeks.

In 2008, I tried Aberlour's 10 year old and the old labelled version of the 12, and despised them both.  "Despised" is a very strong word, but the feeling was immediate and vibrant.  That actually was a pivotal whisky year for me.  It was the first time I realized that a single malt could be gross.  I had my first (of many) bad experiences with Glenlivet 12, there were the two bad Aberlours, and then I bought a bottle of Lismore.  The snobbery must have begun then.

It's time to give the 12 year old another try.  They've changed the label since I last had it and, sadly, lowered the ABV from 43% to 40%.  The ownership remains the same, as has the ex-bourbon + ex-oloroso cask combo.

The older one
The newer one, reviewed below
Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: "Traditional oak and seasoned Sherry butts"
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Color added? Yes
Sample received via a swap with Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail.  Thanks, Jordan!

Its color is orange gold, not really ex-sherry-ish, not really ex-bourbon-ish, probably e150a-ish.

The nose is fruit at first sniff, cantaloupe and citrus.  Then a little bit of raisins, then a little bit more as the cask influence moves in.  Dried cherries and LOTS of cherry candy.  Whiffs of sulphur linger in the background, sometimes starting out peppery then going right to struck matches.  Give it 30+ minutes of air and the sulphur floats away.  Then there's vanilla, toasted grains, and a hint of orange or lemon marmalade.

Bubblegum and light nutty sherry begins the palate.  Vanilla, mild malt, sugary sweet.  Very blendy.  Thin texture.  A burnt note in the background remains inoffensive.  But a bitter note in the midground starts off light, then gradually gets aggressive and unpleasant.

Toffee, vanilla, and caramel in the quiet finish.  Sweet apples, a little bit of sherry, and that odd bitterness.

I didn't add water because the palate felt too hydrated already.  The nose is the best part, even as it changes with time.  The sherry and cherry and melon were nice early on, as was the late marmalade note.  The palate was flat but mild at first, "blendy" as I'd mentioned, but then goes off the rails with its bitterness.  The finish seemed like it could have been very good under other circumstances, but the low abv turned the volume and the bitterness swung it off key.  (Jordan notes the low abv and bitterness issues in his review as well.  Serge finds neither of those issues in his more positive review.)

On the positive side of things, this was better than my memories of the circa-2008 12yo.  That one had a mouth-filling sourness that ran from the start of the palate into the finish.  This one, I am happy to say does not have that problem.  Also, I recently saw that there are some bottles of 12yo Double Cask Matured have been upped to 43%abv.  Perhaps that will have corrected some issues, or perhaps it will have only heightened them.  If you've had that version, let us know in the comment section below.  Thanks!

Availability - Most liquor specialists in the US, well stocked in France
Pricing - $40-$60 in US, closer to $40 in Europe
Rating - 78