A few weeks ago I had a rare opportunity to attend a private dinner hosted by Dewar’s and world-renowned chef Michael Voltaggio (Top Chef Season 6 Winner) at Soho House in Chicago. It was an all-around epic evening with some of the best culinary dishes I have ever had paired with Single Malt Scotch whisky produced by the five distilleries in the Dewar’s portfolio: Aberfeldy, Deveron, Royal Brackla, Craigellachie and Aultmore.
These five distilleries, each unique in their own way, produce the whisky that goes into the Dewar’s brand of blended Scotch whisky. Fortunately for the single malt enthusiasts of the world, a few years ago John Dewar & Sons (and parent company Bacardi) decided to invest their resources into reviving the individual brands behind each distillery. In addition to providing the whisky for the Dewar’s blend, each distillery now produces 3-6 single malt expressions, all with guaranteed age statements.
And you know what? I tried every single one that night. Everything from the Aultmore 12 Year Old I am about to review to the Craigellachie 31 Year Old that was named Best Single Malt at the 2017 World Whiskies Awards a few days later (ask me about that another time). Every bottle was uncorked and I made sure not to miss a single one. You know, for research.
And just when it doesn’t get any better, it does. After the dinner, Dewar’s offered to ship a bottle to each attendee. We had the choice of introductory expressions: Aberfeldy 12, Deveron 12, Royal Brackla 12, Aultmore 12 and Craigellachie 13. Having tasted all of them that night, I chose this Aultmore 12 Year Old. So before we get into this review I want you all to know that yes, Dewar’s sent this whisky to me but when given the choice, this was ultimately the bottle that I chose. More on that decision to come later.
The Aultmore distillery was established in 1895 in Keith, Banffshire, located in the Speyside region of Scotland. The label of this whisky, officially named ‘Aultmore of the Foggie Moss Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 12 Years’ completes what I find to be a beautiful bottle design. Clean and minimal with a classic ring to it.
The whisky itself is matured in American Oak ex-bourbon casks for 12 years before being bottled at a respectable 46% ABV. It is both naturally colored and non-chillfiltered. Most of the introductory single malts from Speyside tend to be artificially colored and chill-filtered so this is a rare treat from Aultmore.
Uncorking the bottle releases a bright, floral aroma into the air. My how I love opening new bottles. Generally speaking, you should give the first dram some time to breath. 30 minutes is recommended but this is a lighter whisky and I don’t have that kind of patience so I’ll give it 10. In the glass and on the nose, fresh and again floral aromatics with honeysuckle, freshly cut grass and delicate cereal notes. It’s a light, delicate aroma that I find to be more resemblant of some of the Highland malts such as Glenmorangie or Dalwhinnie than the typical Speysider. I am so used to tasting bold, extreme whisky that once in a while it’s nice to have something so fresh and airy. If you happen to have a bottle in front of you, go ahead and take a deep inhale. The beautiful aroma will fill your lungs with little offense.
On the palate, immediately sweet and fruity with and a touch of honey and lemon zest. A few seconds in, the ripe fruits lend way for dampened oak and a rich maltiness. At 46%, it’s bright and fresh and but also a bit prickly. I quite like it at this strength but adding a splash of water will round out the delicacy of the flavors. Above all, I’m really enjoying the fresh grass element to it. Winter has finally come to an end in Chicago and as much as I enjoy my heavily spiced, sherry cask matured single malts, this is a refreshing spirit perfect for a Spring Sunday afternoon. When I first tasted this whisky it was paired with food and of course other whiskies. As fun as the night was, I knew the environment was not ideal for tasting a light, delicate whisky such as this.
Overall, Aultmore 12 Year Old is a very good whisky that can be enjoyed by beginners and enthusiasts alike. It’s not overly complex but nor is it trying to be. It’s a very solid, approachable spirit that in the right moment, has been spot on. The finish is short and abrupt which I suppose it normal for this particular style but if there was one thing I could change, there are beautiful flavors here and I’d like them to taste longer.
So when given the choice, why did I choose the Aultmore 12 Year Old over the introductory expressions from the other distilleries? I have always been a big fan of the Craigellachie 13 Year Old but I already know that whisky. The Craigellachie is a bit more rich and viscous, which is more along the lines of the whisky that I tend to lean toward. Aultmore 12 Year Old is a bit lighter and more floral, which I can comfortably enjoy with family and friends when they come over to visit. When compared with the introductory expressions from Aberfeldy, Royal Brackla and Deveron, for me Aultmore wins 100% of the time. It’s non-chillfiltered and bottled at a higher ABV, which gives it massive appeal for the whisky enthusiast seeking a more robust tasting experience. Give it a try and let me know what you think!