Blink and you miss it. As you enter the town of Aberlour and drop down a gear in response to the reduced speed signs, your vision is firmly on what lies ahead, as opposed to what you’ve slipped past on the right-hand side.
There’s no escaping Aberlour if you’re moving on from Glenfarclas, Ballindalloch, or worshipping the fairy-tale presence of Tormore. The road to the centre of Speyside dissects conveniently through the heart of the village. The majority of traffic including an unbelievable amount of haulage (that rolls seemingly 24/7 through the village streets of Speyside), is destined for the bright lights of Macallan, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and other producers. The distillery of Aberlour is a mere pothole in the road to many who only look ahead, down that road.
A recent visit to Speyside confirmed that the reality continues. Aberlour is content to nestle on the outskirts of town and do its own thing. Recently in the UK, Aberlour has taken a bit of a hit thanks to the widespread price hikes. The bosses at Pernod Ricard and Chivas deemed that we were getting too much value for our money; how dare we give consumers such a thing? The Aberlour A’Bunadh would have to jump from £48 to an eye-watering £80. Now, I’m not going to sit here and defend such an increase as some industry lapdogs have done. They are all too eager to maintain relationships and protect Aberlour by suggesting why shouldn’t the owners adjust their pricing?
I can see Amazon is suggesting an RRP of £95 but discounting to £71.54, while the Whisky Exchange is asking £79.95 and Master of Malt a few pence cheaper £79.80. So there is variation or confusion, but a noticeable price increase on where this Aberlour release once was. And that’s replicated in availability, with the A’Bunadh being widely available, which was never previously the case. Luvians in Fife in 2019 managed to get a palate and as a festive special sold the A’Bunadh at its original price: needless to say it was snapped up. For retailers, there’s nothing worse than stock that sits around clogging up inventory and space.
So, there’s price adjusting and leaping way ahead of reality. Why should consumers pay for the failure of corporations to evaluate their brands and pricing on a regular basis? We’ve seen this behaviour from Pernod and Chivas previously – anyone care to remember the diabolical revamp of the Longmorn range? Time has seen some price adjustments, but the range still remains overpriced and readily available. Begging the question, when is too much too much?
The topic of pricing did come up briefly during our recent Aberlour A’Bunadh Alba article, including an interview with Pernod Ricard USA’s brand leader for Aberlour. At least this was queried, as I’ve seen several interviews online with Aberlour representatives, where it seems the influencer is at pains to avoid the topic. What’s clear is that Aberlour sees North America as a real focus after burning some bridges across Europe. Things can be restored with time and effort, but when there’s easy money to be made elsewhere, why bother?
Interestingly, the Alba is priced to be within 10% of the A’Bunadh and if you know the price of your casks, the disparity should be greater. Even if the bourbon barrels are from the Kelvin Cooperage – who utilise a more hands-on approach rather than automation – and their casks cost significantly more than larger cooperages. I’m interested to see the price of the Alba in the UK once it lands, so watch this space.
On the topic of Alba, isn’t it remarkable to see the reaction of some Stateside? The sudden realisation, that Aberlour can do bourbon casks and deliver a seemingly excellent whisky, really? This harks back to what I’ve said for ages now and a bourbon cask is a perfect vessel to showcase distillery character. Aberlour has always delivered a tasty new make that doesn’t need swamped in aggressive sherry: you’re paying for and tasting the wood. The Alba success underlines the fact that bourbon is more harmonious and showcases the distillery DNA to greater effect. The Alba brings home this fact and underlines why the bourbon hand fill option at the distillery was so popular for years on end. But again, within 10% are these gold plated bourbon casks, or are you using the cheapest seasoned sherry casks known to man?
All that said and done, there is much to enjoy when it comes to Aberlour. I’ve not had a bad one over the decades that I can recall immediately, and that’s a positive. For sure, there have been a few meh and dull moments, but on the whole, the distillery is a solid hitter with the SMWS doing it justice in recent times.
We’re jumping into the Aberlour White Oak release today. This particular release was distilled in 2007 and bottled in 2017 at 40% strength. It is still available from Master of Malt for an attractive £46.95 and has been matured in Quercus Alba White Oak casks.
Aberlour 2007 White Oak – review
On the nose: apples, vanilla, pears – each delivered in a very softly spoken manner. Nutmeg, wafers and caramel round off a very light and inoffensive experience. No water is necessary.
In the mouth: bitter oak, musty damp wood, stale white bread, walnuts, almonds and vanilla. Again no water please.
This definitely falls into the meh and dull bracket of Aberlour. A very safe, entry level whisky from Speyside. If you’re looking to explore whisky and are just getting started in single malts, then this is a good option.
There’s very little here to tax your palate and as a gentle opener it is ok. It’ll give you the experience of why 40% and all the other bad practices are being dispensed with by distilleries, who seek to reward their customers and care about presentation.
My thanks to Coldorak from MoreDramsLessDrama for the opportunity to try this whisky and the excellent photograph.
There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement.