During a recent sale at my local liquor store, I splurged on some nicer bottles of scotch including a few bottles from Aberlour Distillery. Their bottle of 12-year Speyside Single Malt turned out to be a winner, so I had some decent expectations for this higher-priced Aberlour Casg Annamh. Turns out, I may have gotten my hopes up a little too soon.
The first distillery in the little Scottish village of Aberlour was founded in 1825, but lasted less than a decade. The founder had decided to lease the facility to James and John Grant, who would take their knowledge and experience and go found their own distillery somewhere else (where they didn’t have to pay rent).
Years later, in 1879, a local resident and prosperous grain trader named James Fleming decided to try again, building a new distillery and making his product with the help of water drawn from St. Drostan’s Well. The distillery flourished until, like many other distilleries of that era, it burned down in an unfortunate accidental fire in 1898 and had to be re-built.
That new distillery would continue operating (with some minor interruptions during world wars) to modern day. It was purchased in 1945 by the Campbell Distillers, and the facility was increased from one pot still to two to accommodate increased demand for whiskey from Dewar’s, who used their product in a blended whisky product. Most recently, the distillery was purchased by the French Pernod Ricard brand who maintain ownership of it to this day.
- Learn More: What Is Scotch Whisky?
The name “Casg Annamh” means “Special Cask” in Gaelic — but as far as I can tell, this whisky follows a fairly familiar pattern, similar to what other distilleries are doing.
Aberlour begins the process with 100% malted barley which is milled, cooked, and fermented to make a mildly alcoholic liquid. That liquid is then distilled twice in copper pot stills to concentrate the alcohol in the liquid without stripping away the delicious components that provide the flavor and character of the spirit.
Once distilled, the spirit is placed into two different kinds of oak barrels for maturation: previously used American bourbon barrels and previously used sherry casks. The spirit sits in these barrels for an undisclosed period of time, which is the only difference I can spot between this bottle and their 12-year version.
I think this is a great example of a slightly modernized bottle design that still pays homage to traditional Scottish styles.
The bottle itself looks chunky, like a slightly overweight football player. I think some of this impression is a result of the bottle neck being incredibly bulky — the body itself is actually a fairly normal circumference, sporting a cylindrical shape and a rounded shoulder. I also appreciate that they took the time to emboss the name of the distillery on the bottle itself, which takes additional time and money to accomplish.
The bottle is capped off with a wood and cork stopper, which is dipped in a light gray colored wax to seal it. One mild annoyance, though: I couldn’t find any easy opening tab in the wax and needed to take a knife and cut into it to free the cork here.
I do appreciate that the label on this bottle is only as big as it needs to be. The majority of the real estate on the bottle is devoted to showing off the beautiful color of the spirit inside the bottle rather than any artwork or fancy embellishments that might have been added later. The format of the label is pretty consistent with other Scottish spirits and relatively unremarkable.
The package ships in a cardboard sleeve, as is customary for most Scottish spirits. This not only protects the bottle from damage, but also protects the spirit from premature oxidation and damage from sunlight as it sits on the store shelf. The markings from the bottle are reproduced on the similarly gray colored and slightly textured sleeve, which I find to be a nice touch.
There’s an immediate impression of dark fruit coming off the glass, reminiscent of a slightly watered down sherry. I’m picking up some dried figs, raisins, blackberry preserves, and a bit of brown sugar pulling it all together. There might even be a touch of orange citrus rummaging around in the background if you squint hard enough. Underneath all of this is the traditional bread-like malted barley and floral blossom aroma that you’d normally expect from a single malt scotch.
As soon as you take a sip, things seem to be heading in a positive direction. The first flavors are bold and expressive, with brown sugar sweetness, honey, dried figs, and vanilla taking center stage. As the flavor starts to develop, there are the expected undertones of sourdough bread and floral blossoms, but the flavor takes a sudden bitter shift near the end. It’s like someone dropped a concentrated morsel of dark chocolate in here, and that dark chocolate flavor combined with a bit of floral blossom and honey is what you get in the short and abrupt finish.
Ice is a tough challenge for most scotch whiskies. Especially in a Speyside spirit like this one, the flavors and aromas are lighter and tend to get wiped out when the ice cubes hit the glass. That’s the case here to an extent, but I think this spirit is actually able to hold on by its fingernails to a pleasant experience.
There’s still a touch of dark chocolate in the flavor but without the accompanying bitterness. The aroma still carries those dark fruit notes, and the flavor continues to start with a punch of dried figs as well, but that quickly subsides and leaves behind a rather bland and average scotch whisky flavor profile. There’s just the sourdough bread from the malted barley, a touch of floral blossoms, and some honey.
Altogether, it’s a pleasant and enjoyable experience… but not quite the experience I was promised on the tin.
Not every spin of the roulette wheel is going to be a knock-out winner — some of them are going to be a bit disappointing. And I think that’s the situation we find ourselves in here today with this bottle.
I’ve seen what Aberlour can create, and their 12-year version is a much better expression than what’s in the bottle here. I do get some initially stronger notes of dark fruit on this, but they quickly disappear and can’t stand up to some ice cubes. It gets a bit boring after a while.
I could see this competing well against other spirits at a lower price point… but for the money they are asking, I can’t really recommend it.
|Aberlour Casg Annamh Single Malt Scotch Whisky|
Produced By: AberlourProduction Location: Speyside, Scotland
Owned By: Pernod Ricard
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 48% ABV
Price: $64.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Promising notes of dark fruit and malty whisky turn out to be a little flat and disappointing.