Introducing Aberfeldy: 3 Unique Facts About the Golden Whisky

By Andre Frois

A nuanced whisky is made with a Midas’ touch.

The Dewar brothers had a talent for creating captivating whiskies. John Dewar & Sons, Ltd. owns five distilleries in Scotland — Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Macduff and Royal Brackla. Among these, Aberfeldy is distinguished by its smoothness and enchanting bouquets.

Founded in 1898 by brothers Tommy and John Alexander Dewar, the original Aberfeldy distillery is still in operation at the foothills of Scotland’s Central Highlands. Over the past century, its flavourful, welcoming whiskies have garnered a global following. What gives Aberfeldy whisky its fruity and ebullient character?

The realisation of each dram of Aberfeldy is a labour of love, plus there’s gold in its water.

Yup, Gold in the Water

Aberfeldy is Gaelic for “the Pool of the Water god”. The water source used by the Aberfeldy distillery for making its whisky is called Pitilie Burn (Gaelic for “Small River”), which contains deposits of alluvial gold.

If you pan for gold in this river, whatever you find legally belongs to the Queen. Nowadays, you still might spot the odd fellow trying his luck in this river, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be sharing his spoils with the monarchy.

Its Cool Distillery is Worth a Visit

While Pitilie Burn supplies the distillery with mineral-rich water, the barley needed to make whisky arrives from Perth by rail, along with the oak needed for constructing the whisky barrels. Oak contributes important molecules that are integral to the Aberfeldy whisky experience, but we’ll get to this later.

A narrow-gauge railway line, rather than a full-size railway line, brings the whisky’s ingredients to this tranquil countryside. The contributions of this railway line are acknowledged by a cute, stationary puggy engine, which sits beside the storied distillery.

Besides the puggy engine, you will also know that you’ve arrived in Aberfeldy when you see its Doig ventilator, an angular chimney designed by the renowned architect Charles Doig. The puggy engine and Doig ventilator emblazon Aberfeldy artwork, including the can of the Aberfeldy 12.

The Aberfeldy distillery concentrates on making a relatively small batch of high-quality whisky — around 3.3 million litres per year, which is significantly less than the 15 to 20 million litres per year produced by most mainstream whisky brands.

Several Different Casks are Used

The malt is gently distilled in copper stills, which encourage a cyclic distillation process called reflux that is integral to the finish of Aberfeldy whisky. After which, the multi-award-winning Aberfeldy 12-year-old and 21-year-old whiskies are created by maturing the distillate in first fill sherry casks, first fill bourbon casks, rechar casks and refill casks.

A first fill cask is a cask that has not contained alcohol before, a rechar cask is a cask that has been roasted to release more flavour, and a refill cask is a cask that was previously used to mature another whisky. Aberfeldy’s 16-year-old whisky is matured in first fill bourbon casks, rechar casks, refill casks and Madeira casks, then finished in first fill Oloroso sherry casks.

Aberfeldy counts on its revered master blender Stephanie Macleod, who decides the quantities of each cask that will be blended to achieve a consistent product. By Scottish law, the age statement of a whisky is the age of its youngest ingredient, which means an Aberfeldy 12 might contain ingredients that have been aged for much longer.

Besides the Aberfeldy 12, 16 and 21, Aberfeldy also releases limited editions aged in special casks, and might soon venture into ageing with French wine casks.

What Does Aberfeldy Taste Like?

The Aberfeldy 12’s bouquet is a lot richer than that of most whiskies. You might pick up whiffs of flowers in summertime and tropical fruit. Besides fruity flavours, this young but robust spirit tastes like honey and spices, along with a hint of peat even though Aberfeldy 12 is not peat smoked.

The Aberfeldy 16 is for imbibers who like affable and floral spirits. The Madeira and Oloroso casks endow this fragrant and citrusy whisky with nuances of dark chocolate, red fruit and a tinge of woodiness.

Chew on the Aberfeldy 21 to taste a variety of different nuts like almonds, cashews and macadamias. During its long maturation, the signature creamy and honey notes of Aberfeldy have evolved flavours of beeswax and marmalade, which complement this whisky’s notes of lime, vanilla and peat.

The Aberfeldy 21 can be distinguished by its subtle coconut-y finish, which is a flavour imitated by a molecule called lactone that comes from the oak cask.

Limited stocks of Aberfeldy Whisky are available at Cold Storage stores across Singapore.