Aberfeldy 20 Year Small Batch Exceptional Cask Series
Single Malt — Highlands, Scotland
Tasted October 8, 2021
Rating: 19/23 - Intro - I just tried Aberfeldy 12 and really liked where it was going with the nose, but found that the palate fell a bit flat. I'm hopeful that this fills out the complexity and adds that missing layer of maturity. N: Much richer and fuller than Aberfeldy 12's nose, but also not as complex. I get this bitter vanilla with more of a, uh - it's not creosote or mineral spirits, but it's some sort of finish for wood. That largely covers some waxy lemon peel. There is a little bit of actual wood here too, but it's dry and not that pronounced. There's surprisingly little malt and grain here too. There's oddly a hint of meatiness from the base distillate that I would have expected would be gone by this age. My guess is that hearts make up a smaller proportion of the distillate than they do in the 12 - which is definitely the right thing to do here. As it sits out, I start to get hints of tangerine, with even less frequent and fainter wafts of something like banana and something like manuka honey. P: Whew. I was getting a bit worried from the nose, but this palate is a big improvement! It's surprisingly a tad thin, which I'm not a fan of, but it's not a big deal. There's a nice fullness and completeness here - and none of the meatiness or alcohol. I Actually get quite a bit of manuka honey. It's mixed with a big wood backing, and that light malt mixed with birch syrup (which is definitely birch syrup this time) that I got from the 12 year old. There are also some nice spices - mainly ginger, with a little clove and a hint of cinnamon. Some kind of vegetal grain notes peek their heads out of the honey at times. There's a decent amount happening here, but it's subtle. A bit of vanilla and mellow, mature wood, but also a dash of alcohol in with that birch syrup. F: A bitter backing with a little bit of numbness from the clove. The manuka honey starts doing a funky dance into the vegetal realm, with a small number of flavors swirling a bit. It's a bit of a funky finish, but I kind of dig it. - Conclusion - This is definite step up over Aberfeldy 12 (14). It isn't the most complex dram, but that manuka honey is pretty hedonistic and this one nails that flavor better than anything else I've ever tried except for Cadenhead's Tullibardine 25 (19). A quick side-by-side reveals more complexity and interesting funky flavors in the Tullibardine, but less balance. The Tullibardine does taste cleaner though with a little bit more of a refined character to it. Thw two are darned close, but I'd place this below the Tullibardine. This one is not a great comparison, but I don't have a whole lot of highland style scotch in the 16 range, so I'm trying this next to Loch Lomond 12 (16) as well. The Loch Lomond's execution is a bit sloppier than this one's, so I'm inclined to put this above it. Glen Grant 18 - a more sensible comparison - is pretty close in quality to this. The Glen Grant is oilier with a kind of heavier graininess. This is Sweeter and a bit spicier with a better balance. I think I have to give this one the win. Since this is between the Glen Grant and the Tullibardine, I'm stuck between an 18 and a 19. I was originally thinking would I have to give this an 18, but I'm leaning toward a 19 now because I think that this is closer to the Tullibardine in quality. A 19 it is, but a low one. Thank you @ctbeck11 for sharing this tasty dram!