(This is the fourth of five simultaneous reviews with Michael Kravitz from Diving for Pearls. Here is his review.)
Aberlour are known for their sherried malt, whether it is the young, cask strength A’bunadh, beloved of so many geeks, or the regular 12 and 16 yos. They do mature a fair bit in bourbon casks, obviously–obvious because their non-A’bunadh releases tend to be double matured or vatted from sherry and bourbon casks–but very little of this, if any, sees the light of day as official distillery releases. As always, we have the indies to turn to for the variety the distilleries are reluctant to give us in order to maintain their “distillery character”, and so this 22 yo from Exclusive Malts which is the oldest Aberlour I think I’ve had to date.
This bottle is from a first fill barrel–the label does not specify but it’s ex-bourbon. It was featured at our local group’s February tasting where it was quite well received. These notes are taken from the end of the bottle but it’s not been open very long.
Aberlour 22, 1990 (51.5%; Exclusive Malts; first fill barrel #16972; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bright fruit–mix of citrus, banana, apricot–and honey, and then some rich malt and toasted wood. There’s some cereal too and then some sort of dried citrus peel (bergamot?). Some grassiness develops later but it’s not offensive. With more time there’s a creamy note too. Not a whole lot of change on the nose with water, except maybe with a lot of time the apricot comes to the top.
Palate: Sweeter than on the nose at first and then the brighter fruit arrives–apricot and some lime. The lime turns to orange with some bitter edges. Behind it are some tropical notes–some tart mango. The wood is not quite as apparent here as on the nose. Wait, on subsequent sips the wood shows up earlier–it brings with it just enough bite to provide counterpoint to the fruit, but not enough to qualify as astringent. Very nice mouthfeel and very drinkable at full strength. With water the fruit gets quite tart and there’s more wood spice.
Finish: Long. Richly fruity, with the deeper notes intensifying. The wood shows up too, and here it’s polished rather than toasted. Turns quite spicy as it goes. Water brings out the wood a little earlier.
Comments: Very nice, very classy. I wonder why Aberlour don’t do official bourbon cask releases. At any rate, this is the best Aberlour I’ve had in a while and certainly the best Exclusive Malts bottling I’ve ever had. Just missing some oomph/depth to take it to the next level–more of the tropical fruit hinted at on the palate would have done the trick.
Rating: 88 points.