Tastings are a wonderful opportunity to try multiple expressions (types) of whisky. I surprisingly enough am not made of a magical never ending whisky tree. So the opportunity to enjoy a dram without having to buy the bottle is an economic no brainer, and also a test of the senses.
My first tasting was at the Hotel Omni. This is not a whisk(e)y bar per se but they do a nice job of hosting a tasting almost every Wednesday.
How best to make use of a tasting (in my opinion). Take your time, be a it a two expression tasting or five. You generally will get a proper 1oz pour per glass. With one ounce per dram you need the time to reflect and ponder the intricacies of each individual expression. Well at least, I do.
Tasting 5 different expressions from the same house can be a challenge, and I worried that i would not be able to differentiate between them. How different can they be, the answer is decidedly a matter of taste and willingness to find something different.
This tasting was a good first entry into the fray. I had already tasted some of the expressions on their own but never had i compared them to one another in one sitting. I was kind of exited to try and test my palate. I tried tasting from youngest to oldest in order to not loose the subtleties from the younger expressions.
The Aberlour 10yr has light oak and vanilla perfume with notes of plum.
The palate starts with a slight spice that leaves way to a candy sweet taste that is pleasant and then it quickly fades away to the finish which transitions quickly to a hint of sweet honey.
The first one is always a little easier to discern, if only because the there is nothing to compare it to, and this is were I worried that is would not be able to detect noticeable differences in the the 12yr old expression. I finished my last sip of the 10yr, took a sip of water to cleanse my palate and chatted with the bartender for a short while to give some distances between the two drams. I was anxious to see if there would be enough of a difference in the two years between the two scotches for me to pick up on.
But what a difference 2 years make…when they are in a sherry barrel. It was with great relief that when I tasted the Aberlour 12yr, this expression was noticeably different from the first. The credit goes to the double cask aging. The 12yr spends ten years maturing in a oak casks and then transitions to a sherry casks (casks that had previously been used to age Sherry)for the last two years. This process imbues a secondary taste that balances with the oak barrel.
The Aberlour 12yr’s nose has an aged raisin aroma (and a very slight nostril burn similar to the 10yr). The palate is spicy and honey sweet up front and slightly oaky in the back of the mouth, the dram slides of the tongue and expands pleasantly through the mouth. The finish lingers with notes of toffee.
I was relieved to have been able to perceive the difference, next was a favorite of mine the 16yrs Aberlour. I have previously reviewed this particular expressions, but for continuities sake, here is the short version. The nose is sweet and with floral notes and light honeycomb. The palate starts with a spicy sweet hit and transitions to a deep complex Oloroso that is carried through with a consistently creamy mouthfeel.
The next was the 18yr old and i had a thought that the trend of deep and creamy deliciousness would continue, I was wrong and that was ok. It was a surprise to taste a clean and more subtle dram. The nose has a sweet and light floral characteristic with honeycomb undertones. The palate has a quick hit of Oloroso raisins and really just a smooth slow tickling of the tongue. The spiciness evolves to into a nice citrus nuttiness that fills the mouth. The mouthfeel for this dram is markedly different from the 16yr old the creaminess is replaced with a slight glycerol like coating. The finish is smooth and light. The bottle was a surprise and a welcome one. It challenged my senses and showed the diversity within the Aberlour line of products.
The Aberlour A’Bunadh, now this is a beast of a bottle. It is cask strength, that is to say that they don’t cut alcohol content with water, the ABV (alcohol by volume) is 59.6%. This strength can make some think that there will be some serious burn to accompany the dram, but really it’s surprising how smooth this rolls and stays steady no the palate. The nose is assertive with a deep Oloroso Sherry, spices and a hint of orange. The palate is a strong mixture of black cherries, spices, and a warm ginger that roll through the mouth and lingers. The mouthfeel is a full creaminess that lasts through the finish exposing notes of vanilla, more spice, bitter chocolate and light oak. The finish lasts and lasts in a good way, really a great expression.
The A’Bunadh has not been chill filtered which might lead to the extra notes of complexity. The process of cold filtering removes extra impurities and is done generally to improve the clarity of the liquid.
And so ends my first tasting. With all that tasting I highly recommend that notes be taken. Weather it’s for a single bottle or five, trying to remember your experience in detail later on will be well served by a few scribbles on a note pad, or voice memo on your phone. However you choose to document the experience it will be rewarded when you try to remember all the awesome you have just experienced.