Review: Aberfeldy 12, 16, and 21 Years Old
Aberfeldy is best known for its significant contributions to Dewar’s Scotch blends (Dewar’s being the distillery’s corporate owner), but it’s also the home to its own line of single malts, with bottlings reaching as old as 40 years of age. Situated uniquely between the Highlands and the Lowlands region of Scotland — technically either the Midlands or the Lower Highlands, depending on who you ask — Aberfeldy is known for producing mainstream, approachable whiskies with broad appeal.
While its “Exceptional Cask” releases are bottled at cask strength, the three whiskies we look at today — representing the core of Aberfeldy’s single malt lineup, all formally relaunched a few years ago — are all bottled at 80 proof. All three are aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks, first fill oloroso sherry casks, and refill casks which are then married together before bottling — though note the additional aging on the 16 year old below.
Let’s dig in.
Aberfeldy 12 Years Old – Appropriately entry-level, the sweet cereal and buttery biscuits of a bourbon-barreled single malt are immediate on both nose and palate, coming across as gently green but otherwise fully uncomplicated, with the focus squarely on the grain. The finish offers just a touch of spice and at least nods toward the oak barrel, but it never attempts to complicate what comes across as an affordable starter sipper. B / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Aberfeldy 16 Years Old – Once vatted together for bottling, this expression is pumped into first fill oloroso sherry casks for a further 6 months; it’s the only expression in the Aberfeldy range to have this additional finishing time. A familiar cereal element kicks off the nose, though here it rides along with a slight mushroom note. There’s a pinch of pepper and a bit of greenery, but it all coalesces well into a . On the palate, the whisky is clearly more well-rounded than the 12 year old, a bit meaty but also showcasing some chocolate notes as well as vanilla. That cereal underbelly persists, along with toasty oak and some almond notes, adding nuance. The finish is clean and slightly sweetened by golden syrup, with a finish that recalls Golden Grahams cereal. Quite lovely. A- / $85 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Aberfeldy 21 Years Old – Surprisingly racy on the nose, there’s a lot more citrus here as well as more fresh-cut oak. Some furniture polish aromas seem a little out of place. On the palate, there’s ample nougat to complement the inherent cereal bill, along with a big lemon peel note and a touch of cinnamon. The finish is lightly sweet like the 16 year old, but there’s a surprising heat and a significant graininess that dominates. It’s reasonably approachable, but less distinctive than the 16. B+ / $160 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]