Review: Aberfeldy 18 Years Old and Exceptional Cask 20 Years Old
Keeping track of Aberfeldy’s single malt releases — “the golden dram” — can be tricky, as there are two separate ranges of whiskies, a core range comprising 12, 16, and 21 year old malts and the Exceptional Cask Series, which offers 18, 19, and 24 year old whiskies.
Today, Aberfeldy launches one new whisky in each of those ranges, an 18 year old that’s tangentially part of the core range — but still a limited edition — and a 20 year old Exceptional Cask — so even more limited. So, yes, to confuse you, that is two different 18 year old whiskies in the current product mix. Fortunately Aberfeldy’s bottles are clear enough on what’s in each range, with “Exceptional Cask” in all caps on those ultra-rare bottlings.
Let’s give them both a try.
Aberfeldy 18 Years Old – This is a unique whisky from Aberfeldy, spending 18 years in refill casks and finished for 4 to 5 months in Pauillac Bordeaux wine casks. This is an instantly different dram than a lot of Aberfeldy’s other releases. The nose is toasty and brooding, with notes of dark brown sugar and caramel-covered cookies emerging quickly. The wine-driven fruit is more evident on the palate, which gives the body a berry-heavy, almost plummy element. The cereal notes stick around for some time, interplaying in an interesting fashion with the fruit, jumping back and forth and bringing out some notes of nougat and honeycomb. On the finish the wine elements kick back in again, with some tannic elements dimming the up-front fruitiness and drying things out. Fun and unexpected stuff. 86 proof. A- / $120
Aberfeldy Exceptional Cask Series 20 Years Old – This one spends 20 years in refill casks — then a full year in Sauternes wine casks, one of my favorite whisky finishing choices. A stark contrast to the prior whisky, it’s immediately bright and sunny on the nose, lightly grassy with a touch of honey on top. It’s sweet up front as you might expect on the palate, the fruit flooding the palate with notes of pears in syrup, spiced apples, and some vague tropical notes. While it’s laced with honey and golden syrup notes, there’s a toastiness on the finish that speaks of buttered brioche, cinnamon sugar-dusted toast, but also a hint of creamy bacon fat. Brilliant throughout, it’s a whisky that truly tastes like sunshine. 86 proof. A / $200