Aberfeldy was one of the first whiskies I purchased when originally getting into whisky. I remember buying a litre of the 12 year old from Gatwick airport on a flight out to Malta a number of years ago. Although I became slightly disenchanted 3/4 of the way through the bottle, it was definitely one of the whiskies that encouraged me to furrow deeper into the world of single malt.
The distillery bottlings have just received a branding makeover which I think has helped it’s image. I was never a fan of the old packaging, but it’s more about whats underneath ei?! I had heard a number a positive reactions to the 21yo bottling and it was Steve from the Somerset Whisky Blog who sent me a sample earlier in the year, so a big thanks to him. I still had a sample of the 12yo stored away for a moment like this and it’s always interesting comparing two drams from the same distillery head to head, so here we go. (Both whiskies were from the old style packaging – shown below)
Aberfeldy 12yo (40%)
N: Honey really is the major factor here, sweet and thick. Alongside the honey I find heathery floral qualities that bring a gentle tone to the nose. A soft fruitiness with peaches and toffee apple too, with some oatiness and even a gentle hint of smoke. If anything, I sometimes found this nose a tad too overpowering for my liking.
P: The honey again dominates here, but now coupled with cut grass and sultanas. It is pretty sweet but the first few sips give a maltyness that never particularly cloys. Some oak tones, but these lesser over time. I got toasted oatcakes which sat on the tongue nicely. Holding it in the mouth, there seems to be a fair of maltyness and floral notes with even a hint of peat hiding there.
F: Short, smooth, malty with a slight citrus note. Not much to shout home about here. It is an inoffensive yet simple drop of honeyed nectar. If you like solid, incredibly clean and polished drams, then something like this is for you. You can see why Dewers use this at the heart of their Dewers Blend. I would give it around 82.
Aberfely 21yo (40%)
N: Sweet, gloopy, slightly restrained nose. Quite enjoyable actually. Seems more complex than the 12yo already, less sweet but still plenty of honey character – more like Manuka honey in fact. It’s fresh and incredibly fruity with spiced apples and hint of orange zest. Hints of toffee, woodiness and a burnt toast. Pretty delicate but its maturity shines through.
P: Very gentle arrival with the smoothness on the nose, also a quality of the palate. It however doesn’t taste as mature as the nose suggests. Malty and fresh yet, like the nose, restrained. Lemon cheesecake, vanilla and the heathered honey again, with a splash of smoke trying to squeeze it’s way through.
F: Medium. Drying, malty, slightly salty with apples, vanilla and honeycomb. Very well balanced overall and at times shows some real quality. This one is hard. I quite enjoyed the nose, but found less on the palate to enjoy. I’d say mid 80’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Aberfeldy. In fact, I want to really like Aberfeldy, but I seem to find their whiskies stop just short of what I want them to be. Maybe I’m being unfair.
The 12yo is solid and as mentioned before, provides the backbone to the Dewers blend. Rightfully so, it’s robust and steady, but I find it lacks the finesse of other whiskies in the same bracket.
The 21yo has more going for it than the 12yo, with a greater variety of flavours and complexity. The mature and beguiling nose is its strongest quality but sadly the palate doesn’t deliver as I would hope. Although it is balanced and nicely put together, I found it rather thin, unresponsive and again lacking that extra oomph and quality I expected; especially with its higher price bracket. In my opinion, I wouldn’t pay an extra £60+ for the 21yo as I don’t think it’s three times the whisky the 12yo is. If it was at least at 50% rather than the bog standard 40%, then I would understand the pricing a bit more. Sadly, I found that both these whiskies suffer at their ABV. They didn’t particularly take water well, seemed particularly thin on the palate and lacked any real power. Both whiskies could benefit from non-chill filtration and no colouring… but that’s another story for another time.
However, I maintain that the 12yo is an accessible whisky, perhaps offering more to people new to the world of malt with its beautiful honeyed qualities. I would choose to opt for a Glen Garioch 12, anCnoc 12 or Benromach 10 if you were looking for a similar style/priced whisky. The 21yo has a cracking nose, but is simply overpriced in its category – £30 more than the Glendronach Parliament 21yo and £20 more than the beautifully smooth Glenfarclas 21yo; both far better whiskies in my book.