After a week of weirdo Kilchomans that included two red wine cask-bothered releases (here and here) and one mezcal finish (here), let’s get back to more conventional ground: sherry cask-matured whisky. All three of this week’s whiskies—like the Linkwood that led off the month—were bottled by Gordon & Macphail in their Connoisseurs Choice line, which is a lot fancier these days than it used to be. We’ll begin the week in the highlands with an Aberfeldy. This is only my third-ever Aberfeldy review and is by some distance the oldest of the three. The other two included a Cadenhead’s small batch release from bourbon hogsheads and another G&M Connoisseurs Choice release from a refill sherry cask. This one is from a first-fill sherry puncheon. The refill sherry cask was fine but didn’t excite me very much. Will this first-fill sherry cask, which is nine years older be better? Let’s see.
Aberfeldy 25, 1993 (58.8%; first-fill sherry puncheon 4054; Gordon & MacPhail; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich raisiny sherry with some leather and orange peel and apricot mixed in. Some plum sauce as well as it sits and then some drying notes of oak—but they go well with the richer stuff. Not a whole lot of change with time. A few drops of water pull out some incense and rosewood; the simpler sweet notes from the palate are here too now.
Palate: Comes in quite closed with big alcohol burn; the oak registers behind it; it turns salty as I swallow. Very hot at full strength; the texture feels a bit thin as well. As it sits, the alcohol burn abates a fair bit and it gets quite sweet: the fruit from the nose plus a big dose of roasted malt and some brown sugar (heading in the direction of simple syrup). Okay, let’s see what water does for it. It brightens it up a bit and pulls out a bit more oaky bite but it’s still quite sweet, cloyingly so.
Finish: Long. The salty note lingers for a while even as the burn subsides. Sweeter here too with time and then some orange peel pokes its way through. Even sweeter with water even as some spicy oak emerges.
Comments: I really liked this on the nose at the start but the rest never quite lived up to that. It’s a solid sherried whisky but a bit too sweet for my taste these days; I probably would have liked it more 10 years ago. That’s not a way of saying that my palate has improved with time, only that my preferences have changed. Well, I guess I only liked it a bit more than that 16 yo.
Rating: 86 points.