...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Single Malt Report: A flock of Indies (Part 2) courtesy of OC Scotch Club

This is the second of three posts covering the whiskys I tried on July 12th with the OC Scotch Club.

You can find Part 1 here.


Whisky #3 - Aberfeldy 13yr 1998 (Chieftain's)

Sorry, no decent bottle pics.
Had to nab this label from whiskyintelligence.com

Distillery: Aberfeldy
Ownership: Bacardi (via John Dewar and Sons)
Bottler: Chieftain's
Age: minimum 13 years
Maturation: refill American Oak
Region: Eastern Highlands
Chillfiltered? Nope
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

Ah, my first Aberfeldy and my first Chieftain's.

That Aberfeldy is called the home of Dewar's isn't just due to its use in their blends.  The Dewar family actually built the distillery in 1896.  After a two-year closure, the distillery was purchased by DCL (proto-Diageo) in 1925.  In a rare move by Diageo, the giant sold the distillery to Bacardi in 1998.  Unsurprisingly, Diageo had made little effort to promote the Aberfeldy single malt.  Since the acquisition, Barcardi/Dewar's immediately began promoting and bottling the malt.  It's still mostly used for the Dewar's blends, but a several percent of the output makes it into the bottle without any grain whisky additions.

Meanwhile, Chieftain's is an independent label owned by Ian MacLeod Distillers (who, just to confuse you further, owns their distilleries: Glengoyne and Tamdhu).  I've noticed that their pricing tends to be higher than parallel official bottlings, though sometimes they have moderate prices on their cask strength releases.

At the event, I sampled 0.5 ounces of Aberfeldy neatly in a Glencairn glass.

The color is strikingly similar to a Sauvignon Blanc.  The nose though, is NOT like a Sauvignon Blanc.  It's quite salty (if one can smell salty), cheesy, and nutty.  There's some caramel sauce in there too.  It's a little oaky but not as much as the first two whiskys I'd tried.  The palate packs some generous heat, more oomph.  Brown sugar, black pepper, and sugar cookies lead the way.  Its finish has a medium length and buzzes with freshly ground black pepper.

Because I've never warmed up to any of the blends in the Dewar's range (for instance, this one), I'd set my expectations low low low for the Aberfeldy.  I won't say that this was a great single malt, but it was better than the first two whiskys of the night.  It's not that demanding and shouldn't offend any drinkers.    Its palate is its strength.  My biggest issue with it is the price, which is almost TWICE the standard 12 year bottling.

Availability - Some liquor specialists
Pricing - around $75
Rating - 76

Whisky #4 - Auchentoshan 20yr 1991 (A.D. Rattray)

Distillery: Auchentoshan
Ownership: Suntory (via Morrison Bowmore)
Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 20 years (1991-2011)
Maturation: refill ex-sherry
Region: Lowlands
Chillfiltered? Nope
Alcohol by Volume: 57.5%

Now we're talking.  This was an individual cask bottling, burning at full strength, from an indie bottler I like and a distillery I would like to like.

I'll get right down to it.  This one is a weirdo.  And I'm weirdo.  We're made for each other.  Out of the 20+ people at the whisky tasting, only two of us liked this whisky.  Most people REALLY didn't like it, which I can totally understand.  I could imagine someone tasting this and thinking, "This is totally wrong."

Well, if it's wrong, I do not want to be right.

(Like the others, I sampled 0.5 ounces neatly in a Glencairn glass.)

The color is a simple pinot grigio.  So this must have been a 12th-refill sherry cask.  The nose begins with roses, then goes to white pepper.  Slowly it gets sort of oaky, then very green vegetal.  Then there's the palate.  Sandy, chalky, clay, tree roots, and wet cigarettes.  It's almost smoky, but perhaps it's hot cracked white pepper meets a high ABV%.  It delivers a singular sizzle.  The finish is huge, full of that peppery thing and bunch of dark green vegetables.

My last note reads, "Me gusta!"

But you can see why this would get promptly spit/spilled out.  It's so strange.  Kind of haunting actually.  I need some closure.  I need a whole bottle of this stuff to sort things out.

Availability - Some liquor specialists
Pricing - SUPER at $70-$80 (almost the same price as the 13yr lower ABV Aberfeldy!)
Rating - 87 OKAY I'M WRONG, I BOUGHT A BOTTLE AND THE WHISKY IS DISGUSTING. *sob* I'M SORRY FOR THIS POSITIVE REVIEW. Please see this more accurate post. Cheers.

Part Three to follow soon...


  1. Utterly wild and wonderful on the Rattray Auchentoshan 1991-2011. I love strange and interesting palates like that. There's a story there somewhere. As for the Aberfeldy - I wonder. I haven't had enough to know the distillery well, but the few I've tried all seem a bit shy. I'm with you so far..

    1. Hey Josh! According to a fellow I met who has a bottle of that Auchentoshan, the sherry notes peek out a month or two after the bottle has been opened, then it sweetens up. It's a curio, indeed. I've found that my palate takes to the big strange whiskies immediately, but this summer heat has kept the quieter drinks in my glass.