Aberlour 16 year old double cask

16 years old, 43% ABV, Oloroso and American Oak casks, Speyside, Scotland

The Aberlour distillery is nestled away in the Speyside region of Scotland in the town of Aberlour – a couple of minutes down the road from Craigellachie.

Aberlour 16

Interestingly though, on the package of the 16 year old double cask, Aberlour refer to themselves as both a Highland and Speyside distillery.

Aberlour 16 tube

The bright copper-coloured 16 year old double cask pictured here is a marriage of two different whiskies.

Aberlour take a whisky that’s been maturing for at least 16 years in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks and a whisky that’s been maturing for at least 16 years in first-fill American Oak. The two are then married together for a period of around three months in a marrying tun before being bottled as the 16 year old double cask.

Aberlour 16 seal

Just as you’re about to open the bottle for the first time, you’re met with this little paper seal scribed with a simple description of what you’re about to taste. I think it’s a nice little touch. (In case you’re wondering, the liquid inside does indeed live up to the description – read on)

Did you know…

The town of Aberlour is also the home of Walker’s Shortbread. I don’t know about your part of the world, but at home in Sydney, there always seemed to be a tin or box of Walker’s Shortbread in our house around Christmas time. Might have to pair one with a dram of Aberlour 16 to see how it goes!

Nose

Initially quite fresh and floral – notes of soft vanilla, light spice, green apples, citrus and gentle sweetness. The nose sweetens after some glass/air time with some malty honey notes showing and something a bit zesty and bitter – orange marmalade comes to mind. A pretty well balanced nose in my opinion.

Palate

A nice medium oily mouth feel on entry – it has a nice weight to it for a 43% whisky. Gentle spice and sweetness come out first, followed by some of those citrus/bitter marmalade flavours. The sweetness and vanilla aren’t as strong as I would have expected from the nose, but they’re still there.  Overall, quite light and soft on the palate.

Finish

The 16 year old finishes with medium warmth and light malty sweetness contrasted with a fair bit of oaky bitter spice.

Comments

With little debate, the cask strength A’bunadh is the most well-known and talked about whisky in Aberlour’s current line up. But I think this is a really underrated gem and one that’s definitely worth exploring.

If A’bunadh is the heavyweight bigger brother packed with boisterous pointed flavours, then the 16 year old double cask is its nimbler sibling with rounder, softer, more harmonious flavours. A well-made high quality whisky at a pretty good price point.

If you’re a fan of A’bunadh and have been wondering about the other offerings in the Aberlour stable – maybe it’s time you gave the 16 year old double cask a go.

As a random side note, this bottle has to have the best sealing cork I’ve come across!

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban

12 years old, 46% ABV, American Oak and Ruby port pipes, Northern Highlands, Scotland

Around 2008, Glenmorangie released what we now know as the current range of  ‘extra-matured’ whiskies. The range of three includes Lassanta (finished in ex- oloroso sherry casks), Nectar d’Or (finished in sweet French sauternes wines casks) and this one, Quinta Ruban which has been finished in Portuguese ruby port pipes.

Quinta Ruban

To arrive at these ‘extra-matured’ whiskies, Glenmorangie start with their standard 10 year old, which has been resting away for ten years in American white oak (first fill and refill casks).

They re-rack this whisky into the wine casks mentioned above for a further two years of maturation, bottling each expression at 12 years of age. The other big difference between the extra-matured range and the standard 10 year old is that they’re each bottled at 46% ABV (instead of 40%). They’re also non-chill filtered – preserving loads more of those delicious oily flavours.

Quinta Ruban label

Did you know…

Glenmorangie have long been considered one of the pioneers of cask finished or ‘extra-matured’ whisky. Well before the current extra-matured range was released, Glenmorangie were re-racking their whisky into various wine casks, as far back as the late 1980’s. Some of these casks were pretty exotic too! Truffle Oak anyone?

Often referred to as one of their best and one that collectors regularly pay big dollars for is their 1975 Tain L’Hermitage. Distilled in 1975, it was moved into Côtes du Rhône wine casks in 1999, then bottled in 2003 at 28 years old (there was also an original version bottled in 1995, but it’s as rare as hen’s teeth).

Nose

The first thing I got was more spirit than usual, not surprising given it’s bottled at 46%. Sweet vanilla bourbon notes from the American white oak are there, but they’re dominated by a rich sweetness. Not super fruity, but more sugared plums, cherry and wine notes. I got a hint of spice and also some curious fresh/cooling notes – butter menthol of some sort?

Palate

On entry, this has a reasonably oily mouth feel and is quite sweet and creamy. I also got a fair amount of spice on the side of my tongue, but it dissipates rather quickly, leaving behind a second wave of creamy sweet plummy notes, some dark cherries and a slightly tingling raspberry jam flavour. The port has had a big influence on this one.

Finish

The spice on the palate fades as fast as it arrives, leaving behind a really curious tingling sensation, almost fizzy or carbonated in a sense. Can’t say I’ve experienced that sensation in a whisky before! Some light oaky bitterness, nice medium length warmth and some traces of that cooling butter menthol from the nose start to emerge.

Comments

Even though the port finish is pretty heavy on the nose and palate, this is still unmistakably Glenmorangie. I love the fact it’s non-chill filtered and that they’ve bottled it at 46% ABV (makes me wish the standard 10 year old was the same).

I personally found the fizzy tingling sensation a little odd and the port dominated a bit too much for my liking, taking away from the more delicate Glenmorangie notes that I really enjoy. In saying that, I can definitely see this being enjoyed by many as a great digestif style whisky.

Glenfarclas 15 year old

15 years old, 46% ABV, ex-Oloroso & Fino Spanish Oak casks, Highlands, Scotland 

The Whisky Exchange in London have recently voted the Glenfarclas 15 their whisky of the year, so I thought I’d explore my experience with this sherry bomb.

Glenfarclas 15

The presentation is pretty straightforward and classic. The burgundy, cream and red colours are accented by some copper-foil on the label and tin. It’s a pretty rich and regal colour palette, but then so too is the whisky, so it’s rather fitting!

Glenfarclas tin

Nice copper coloured tin closures with the intertwined J&G Grant logo, which is also repeated on the back label.

Glenfarclas label

I really like the simplicity of this line drawing of the distillery.

These notes were after the bottle had been opened for a good ten months or so, sitting at about half full.

Nose

Rich raisin notes with a hint of sourness – almost reminds me of tarty grapes or even kiwi fruit. Also had some cinnamon spice notes mixed in with the spiciness from the 46% alcohol content. I didn’t find the nose overly sweet, but there was a slight toffee/vanilla/oak note in there somewhere and a hint of wood smoke.

A very rich nose on this one after seven months and if I didn’t know what it was, I would have guessed it was older than 15 years.

Palate

Initially fairly oily before it gives way to rich fruit sweetness. I didn’t find it sweet in sugary sense of the word, but more like a natural stewed fruit kind of sweetness, with hints of charcoal. This is followed by some cinnamon/oak spice notes that linger in a tongue tingling kind of way.

Finish

The spice tingle continues with waves of long-lasting warmth down to the top of your chest, leaving you with a buttery/creamy mouth. After a good few minutes I also got some faint oaky bitterness, almost like a bitter almond note and some really faint residual wood smoke.

Comments

After trying a sherry oak Macallan and falling in love with it, I immediately went out in search of other heavily sherried whiskies. One popped up time and time again on various forums and that was the Glenfarclas 15year old. Without hesitation I tracked down a bottle and bought it.

At the time, I just thought ‘well Macallan is heavily sherried and the interwebz tells me that Glenfarclas is heavily sherried, so they must be the same! Awesome.’

When I got around to opening the Glenfarclas, I almost felt let down. ‘Where’s all that toffee sherry sweetness!?’ I tried to get into it a few more times over the coming weeks, but ultimately stashed in the back of the cabinet and left it for a good six months. In that time, the bottle really opened up – but more than that – so too did my understanding of sherried whiskies and whisky in general.

They were a similar age, both ex-sherry cask and both from a similar region in Scotland. But in a way, that’s where the similarities ended for me. Where the Macallan was lighter, toffee sweet and smooth, the Glenfarclas was big, rich and more complex, with hearty fruit and oak notes and a hint of warming spice.

I still love the Macallan, but I also love this, for very different reasons. One of those reasons being that the Glenfarclas was one of the first whiskies to really open my eyes to the vastly different flavour profiles out there and complexity that can be found in a whisky. This is a go-to winter whisky for me and now that my bottle is empty, I can definitely see it be replaced by another ‘farclas before too long.