In recent years there are have several rebrands as corporations jockey for position in the single malt market. The history books tell us that everything comes in cycles and eventually a boom period will be followed by contraction. In-between we can see a conveyor belt of projects and reimaging reach fruition to widespread results.
For all my disdain about some marketing and some of their tactics, when it’s done well it can be a marvellous thing. Key to this is treating the consumer with respect and pricing accordingly. Diageo’s premiumisation of Mortlach it must be said has not been a tremendous success. I wrote about this move several years ago now and its sad that was a solid whisky has not found a new market and in the process alienated its original core following. What’s left is a redundant outturn that sits on shelves waiting patiently; much like the distillery site that has been savaged and is a former shadow of its historical self.
Just over 2 years ago now, John Dewar owned by Bicardi, revealed its Last Great Malts range. From its ranks 5 distilleries were plucked and given a make-over and new lease of life. The distilleries were Aultmore, Craigellachie, Devron, Royal Brackla and Aberfeldy. A variety of age expressions are available with some exclusive bottlings for the travel retail market. You’ll have seen these eye catching bottlings in various retailers. Each distillery was given a visual specific style, but they are all united by a tactile emphasis on quality.
Aberfeldy distillery forms a fundamental cog in the Dewar’s blended Scotch recipe so much so that the site acts as the visitor centre for their World of Whisky. A similar meeting of the brand and distillery can be seen at Glenturret with its emphasis around the Famous Grouse blended Scotch.
Founded in 1896 by the Dewar family, Aberfeldy distillery was conceived to provide a single malt for use in blending such as the Dewar White label. Its links to the blend have continued throughout the years, including when it was taken over by the Distillers Company Limited, a forerunner to the Diageo we know today. Like so many blending powerhouses, an actual single malt bottling from Aberfeldy wasn’t released until 1991 with the arrival of the Flora & Fauna series.
Then in 1998 it was all change when Bacardi purchased John Dewar & Sons from Diageo for the mammoth price tag of £1.15 billion after a competitive bidding war from other alcohol corporations. Included in this price was the Bombay Gin brand and the need to sell was forced upon Diageo due to antitrust concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. Since the acquisition, Bacardi has sought to improve Aberfeldy distillery resulting in a visitor centre and more recently a biomass boiler. Other distillation investments have increased production with an annual capacity of 3.5 million litres of alcohol. This all means that Aberfeldy and its whiskies will be a more common sight than ever before.
This Aberfeldy 12 year old is the youngest offering in its trio of core malts and will set you back around £34. I actually picked this up on special in a local supermarket for £27. Also available is a 21yo and a 18yo exclusive to travel retail. It’s since been joined by a 16yo finished in sherry casks and an exclusive 28yo expression. These overall are realistically priced compared to some market rivals and other distilleries in the Last Great Malts stable.
Unfortunately there are no statements on the bottle about natural colour or non chill filtration so we have to assume these methods have been implemented to a certain degree.
Aberfeldy 12 year old – review
Nose: it’s almost a light sherry with fragrant oranges and dark chocolate. Caramel sweetness, chalk and a black tea of all things as well. This Aberfeldy is saying more than I would have expected from an official entry level bottling; you just have to listen closely. A crushed mint freshness, syrup, cream crackers, marmalade and a hint for strawberry jam.
Taste: gentle is the one word summary. Familiar appearances from vanilla and almonds, honey but we’re trying to delve deeper. Water reveals apricots and marmalade but little else.
Overall: I’m impressed overall at the price I paid £27 this feels about right, although the normal retail is circa £34. The packaging and design is impressive and you cannot help but feel that accounts for some of the cost here. However, the malt itself is approachable, well made and engaging enough to remain pleasing, but could have been so much more.