Distiller: Aberlour. Age: 12 years. 48% ABV. Region: Highland. Price: $50.
One answer to an unseasonably chilly evening: the marvelous Aberlour 12 Non Chill-Filtered. First had this when I was a peat freak, turning my nose up at anything that wasn’t Octomorish. This changed it all.
The standard Aberlour 12 is too mild-mannered to stand out from the crowd, especially at a mere 40%, but the 48% NCF makes all kinds of things pop.
Beautifully perfumed nose. Malt, stewed pears, brown sugar, a wisp of peat, and allspice in such perfect harmony it’s a minor miracle. On tongue there’s rich oily sherry, baked apples, and cinnamon, with a long finish. Hints of the A’Bunadh character, but far milder and more refined. My shelf’s got room for them both.
Let’s hear it for the Highlands! – BO
Buy Aberlour Whisky online at Mash + Grape
Distiller: Macallan. 60.1% ABV. NAS. Region: Highland.
Macallan, are you out there? Can you please bring this beauty back? All Jerez sherry cask maturation. Like a black forest cake in a glass, with each splash of water adding a new layer.
Sadly discontinued to make room for the 10-year-old Cask Strength — which was then also discontinued (*sigh*). Sherry fans, if you run across one, jump on it. This is one of the greats. – BO
Distiller: Balblair. 46% ABV. No age statement (10 years old). Region: Highlands. Price: $70.
This light, sweet, fresh-smelling dram was a natural to start off what would be a long, packed night of tastings at the inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest.
Founded in 1790, Balblair is one of Scotland’s northernmost distilleries, perched next to the Dornoch Firth. The distillery moved from age statements to vintages a number of years ago, selecting, as it says, for “optimum maturation,” rather than attempting a consistent aged profile year after year.
The 2002 vintage, bottled in 2012, is a light straw color in the glass. Very sweet nose with vanilla and honey. Surprisingly viscous for the low proof. Quite sweet palate at first, following the nose, with just a wisp of white smoke. With a drop of water, light spice emerges.
A delicate, highly enjoyable first dram of the night, any night. – BO
Buy Balblair whisky online at Mash + Grape