Aberlour 20, 1990 (Signatory)


I was inspired by last week’s Blackadder Aberlour 17, 1990 review to see if I had any other samples lying around of bourbon cask Aberlour and found this 20 yo bottled by Signatory that I received in a swap a few years ago. This will be my third review of a bourbon cask Aberlour from the 1990 vintage (I know it’s a small n but I wonder if there were a bunch of casks from that year that made it to the warehouses of independents for whatever reason). If it’s as good as the other two, I will be very happy. Let’s see if it is.

Aberlour 20, 1990 (56.1%; Signatory; cask 101777; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Starts out malty with toasted cereal. The fruit begins to build behind that pretty quickly: lemon peel, apricot, a hint of peach. With more air there’s some oak (nothing tannic or overbearing). With water it’s less oaky, more fruity. 

Palate: More intense with lime peel, honey and is that a hint of peat? No, not peat but a very pleasant, peppery note mixed in with some wet stones. Sweeter fruit too on the second sip. Drinkable at full strength but the alcohol bite distracts from the subtler pleasures. Wait, is that peat? There definitely seems to be something sooty in the background on some sips. Let’s see what water does. It’s fruitier and maltier and muskier and more integrated now, and the phantom peat is gone.

Finish: Long. After the fruit washes out there’s a menthol’ish note and then the malt and cereals from the nose make a late comeback. The phantom soot floats in and out here too.

Comments: This is very clearly related to the Blackadder 17, 1990 except for that phantom peaty/sooty note. My understanding is that Aberlour barely peat their malt (3 ppm is what I’ve seen mentioned). Is this a cask-related one-off? Or residue in the sample bottle? I would think not for the latter as it only shows up on the palate and the empty sample bottle doesn’t have any of that aroma. Anyway, there’s far more to this than that bit of “now you taste me, now you don’t” soot and it’s all pleasurable. I’ll say again: don’t sleep on bourbon cask Aberlour. By the way, I liked it more with water, when it was closer to the 46% Blackadder 17 yo. And so I’m going to give it the same score.

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Patrick for the sample!

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