This week’s accidental whisky themes are Speyside malts, sherry and double-casking, where whisky is aged not once, but twice in different kinds of barrels. The casks contribute enormously to the flavour profile of the whisky; as the wood expands and contracts it releases flavour, colour and aroma into the whisky. So whatever you put in the casks first, lingers and clings onto whatever you put into the cask next.
Relationships are like whisky casks. Whatever you fill that connection with first, will come back and give itself to you again and again, even if you’re filling the barrels with something new. So you should fill them with trustworthy actions, honesty, laughter, kindness and strong, true character. It will flavour everything and anything else that relationship may ever be. The first fill matters. Never forget that little piece of whisky girl wisdom.
This week, old friends have gathered around my door and we’ve drunk sweetly from what the first fill gave us – a long, lingering ability to be present in one another’s lives over years and through the passing of time. Those relationships are honest, deep, rich and full of mirth. They are good and worth celebrating, so I busted out some treats from my own whisky cabinet. And now we’re back to whisky.
The Aberlour 12 is double matured in traditional ex-bourbon barrels and sherry butts (still a cask, but bigger than a bourbon barrel). It’s a much lighter whisky than what I usually drink if I’m into sherry finishes that day. But first drink of the day, after a long Monday and in the company of an old friend. It seemed appropriate.
Oh sherry, how I love your ways. You do such a delightful job of making things round, soft and welcoming while still reminding us your mark on things is indelible.
Nose: Soft and round juicy apples, the old-fashioned kind that almost ooze a buttery goodness to them.
Palate: Sherry! There you are. Hints of cinnamon and ginger spices sitting on top of a mellow toffee. It’s pretty light in the mid-section but that’s ok, because some chocolate just floats around the edges and hangs around.
Finish: Longer than you’d expect for such a medium kind of whisky. The spice sits and lingers long on the tongue, leaving the familiar dry sweetness of sherry. It’s pretty warm and isn’t in a rush. Delightful early evening dram.
I also pulled out my Port Charlotte Valinch Rivesaltes and the Ardbeg Uigeadail.. but those are stories for another time.
Aberlour has been on my mind this week – I sat down with another old friend this week and enjoyed the no-holds-barred 100% sherry casked Aberlour A’bunadh. A’bunadh means ‘of the origin’. And you could be forgiven for thinking this whisky is the blueprint for everything else Aberlour does. It’s everything I love about a ball-buster whisky. You drink this when you mean to give yourself entirely to the experience. And I was committed because I was able to order within minutes of sitting at the bar – which rarely happens. It’s non-chill filtered, matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at cask strength, so each bottle is usually hand numbered with the ABV and details. I’ve lost count of how many bottles of this whisky I’ve been through. Everything is bigger and bolder than the 12, so the nose, palate and finish are all dialled up.
Nose: The spice, fruit and toffee notes are all bigger and more defined. It’s distinctly orange, ginger, clove and buttery toffee. I get bigger hints of the wood itself, but I think my palate just knows what’s coming and gets ahead of itself.
Palate: It’s full-bodied and creamy as it works around the mouth. That’s coming from the praline you get on the nose. The orange gets bigger. Cherries and dried fruit soaking in sherry for a Christmas cake bounce around the tongue for a long while. The oak itself starts to make itself known. The woodiness isn’t at all unpleasant, it just adds some depth to the dark chocolate.
Finish: Imagine walking through spice market in the setting sun. The bitterness of chocolate on the tongue and hints of oak hanging around.