Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Aberlour 12 Year

stats: Single Malt Scotch, Speyside, 43%, $38

In the months leading up to my trip to Florida, where I was invited to host a Scotch dinner, dozens of emails and texts were exchanged during the process of ironing out the logistical details of the event. Somewhere in the mix, there was a request for me to cover the single malts from the dinner here, on my blog. “Of course, not a problem” was my immediate response.

As my date of departure drew near, the time required for my preparations seemed to grow exponentially. Sleep was low on my list of priorities and the early morning flight I had been scheduled for saw me rising at an hour that was close to my normal bed time. I may very well be the first person to experience jetlag while flying north to south. Once I was in the spotlight and focused on the task at hand, the promised reviews completely slipped my mind and proper tasting notes were never taken.

Of course a few months later my forgotten commitment came flooding back into my consciousness with feelings of compunction. Promptness has never been one of my strengths, but damn-it, I’m a man of my word; one way or another, the reviews will be written.

I’m starting with the easiest one (as in most readily available in my local area): Aberlour 12 year. I wrote about Aberlour 10 year almost two years ago, but neglected to mention the proper pronunciation, which is ab-er-low-er; it rhymes with power.

I picked this bottle up during a brief trip through New Hampshire where it normally retails for $38, but I caught it on sale for $36. With Scotch whisky prices rising at an alarming pace in recent years, it’s refreshing to see Aberlour holding the line with what they are charging. Some brands have instituted modest price increases for their least expensive offerings while letting prices jump ever more dramatically as you move up through their more costly bottlings. Aberlour seems to be bucking this trend as well, with their 16 year and cask strength A’bunadh continuing to retail at a very reasonable price points.

I realize that escalating input costs (grain, fuel, transportation, etc) are partly to blame for whisky becoming more expensive, but the main driver is supply and demand. Although we’ve seen the Scotch industry manage its supply issues to an extent with “no age statement” whiskies, they see to have a particular affinity for using price increases as a solution. The current boom period, which slowly ramped up through the 1990’s, probably would have come to and end, or at least stalled out, after the 2008 financial crisis. But demand from emerging markets (primarily China and India) have continued to drive the upward trend for the last five years. We have now reached the point of large increases in production capacity with the building of new distilleries and the expansion of existing facilities.

But every boom period in the past has had its bust, and this one will be no different. The only unknowns are when it will come and how far demand will drop. I really do fear that some of the companies that are going overboard taking advantage (financially) of the current situation are setting themselves up for failure when the present trend reverses.

Okay, time to step off of my soapbox and drink some whisky.

The bottle states that this is a marriage of Sherry casks and traditional (Bourbon) casks. The proportions are not revealed, but the medium-to-dark amber color suggests a significant Sherry cask contribution.
The nose is fairly soft but shows itself to be primarily fruit-forward, with spice, malt and very subtle peat notes rounding things out.
On the palate the spice character is a little more assertive, bringing balance to the complex fruit flavors and malty base. A barely perceptible hint of peat adds depth.

The body is on the heavy side of medium, but flavor-wise it starts off a little thin up front. Coming to life in the mid palate, it remains balanced and engaging through the lengthy, spice driven finish.

This is certainly a respectable single malt Scotch. But having tasted (and been more than impressed by) the cask strength A’bunadh, and knowing that it is the only Aberlour which is not chill-filtered, I can only wonder what potential could be unlocked from the 12 year old by the elimination of that flavor stripping process.

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