“Is 90s Aberlour a thing?”
It’s hard keeping up with what’s a “thing” in whisky or not. Like, do we care about BTAC anymore? Or is it too expensive and hard to get? Anything from Springbank tastes great, but also comes with a big price tag, so do we buy it still? And if the more recent batches of GlenDronach have no peat and aren’t as good as the last ones, but are more expensive, should we still buy it?
These are all questions that whisky nerds have. You want to know what’s good, what’s worth it, what years had an amazing distiller in or a legendary owner or perhaps was bought up by a large company and had “qualitative assessments” to ensure they could “turn a higher profit by pushing the limits of the company’s thresholds”.
God, I hate that I wrote that and understand it.
So a while back I had a friend pour me 90s Aberlour. And I asked the above, and was told it wasn’t really “a thing” but it certainly was different compared to current Aberlour (the quality of casks was different).
So today I’m continuing on to see if things were better when grunge was king with two Aberlours from the 90s. One made in the 90s, one released in the 90s. Let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Thanks to /u/smoked_herring for this sample.
Aberlour 100 Proof (1990s bottling)
Price: £ 275
Colour: 5YR 5/10
Nose: Strawberry, cashew butter, cotton candy, light molasses, orange, nutmeg
Light nose. Really had to get in there to review this. Lots of sweet notes, sherry is forefront, and it’s not something you’d think was UK 100 proof. Water opens up a bit more, but it’s holding back quite a bit here.
Taste: Light caramel, heather, cherry, marzipan… with water … almond cake, caramel sauce
Grassy, a bit of that heather note, some cherry and almond. However giving it time/water really opens up more on the sweet/nuttiness/cereal aspect, and just smacks you around with caramel.
Without water, this is a light, simple dram. With water? Sweetsville in Autumn.
Finish: Cherry, light molasses, sulphur, banana… with water … nori, butter, button mushroom
Again, no water, heavily sherried dram with some funk. With water? Brine, butter and earth hit.
Conclusion: Needs water. Pure and simple. Letting it sit gave me little if anything from the whisky. With water? Complexity, save the nose. I never really felt the nose grew up.
Nonetheless if this was the norm for a CS NAS version of a whisky that’s offered, then I’d be one happy panda. Not too much sherry, balanced, good to sip on, and good complexity. If the nose was better this would easily compete with some of the more “average” A’Bunadhs, and as it stands, competes with a lot of the newer ones I’ve had.
Aberlour 21 1992 Old Particular Douglas Laing
Price: € 125
Cask type: Refill Hogshead
Cask number: DL 10436
Number of bottles: 331
Colour: 7.5Y 9/8
Nose: Butterscotch, fried plantains, grassy, pear, peanut
Interesting nose: Has this fried/butterscotch note that blends savoury and sweet. Good nuttiness, some pear and grass to even it all out. Really powerful notes, nothing shying away this time.
Taste: Creme brulee, apple, cinnamon, grass, lemon sorbet
Alright, nice creamy/vanilla note, some sugar, some molasses and then… Well, it’s just kinda meh. Water opens up citrus and sweetness but it’s not really living up to the taste. Also, it’s gone from strong to just barely there.
Finish: Floral, apple, butter, anise, lemon pith
And here we see it all fall apart. Barely there finish nothing complex, simpler notes. A bit too bitter and not as balanced as the rest.
Conclusion: All nose. Just completely nose and nothing but the nose. Well, it’s okay. It was totally fine to sip on, save for a bit more bitterness than I typically enjoy (but I am sensitive to bitterness).
All in all, you get a 21-year-old whisky that has such a powerful, strong nose and then it just kinda fritters out. It was nice to see, however, if this is what they were distilled in the 90s, I have to aim for what they were bottled in the 90s.
Scotch review #1321-2, Speyside review #359-60, Whisky Network review #1980-81