Years ago, when hanging out together happened, two of my friends had me stop by to confront me about something super duper important. I had never had an Aultmore.
Thank goodness too, as I thought they had found out about the illegal pet trade network I had set up. Then the next thing you know everyone’s asking you for a capuchin and there goes your margins.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Aultmore. For those of you who don’t know, I have a negative outlook on myself that I’m working on. One of the things that lowered my ego on whisky reviewing was to make a list of multiple distilleries and then use an Excel setup to figure out which ones I haven’t had, and thus could judge myself on.
My friends have made it clear, in a roundabout way, that this is unhealthy. Trying to review at least one of every single distillery from Scotland is nice and all, but it’s also a way to discourage my own accomplishments. I can be like “Wow, I’ve had 400 different Speysides” and then also say “Yeah? Well you’ve never had a Kinvinie single cask, you pile of shit”.
I now keep it as a way to expand my horizons. The idea being to use it instead when I’m shopping for something or at a bar I can quickly find out if I’ve had a Glen Turner (still looking).
Back to Aultmore: While hiding a rare lizard in my bum bag my friends poured me two Aultmores. I found them grassy. One was over sherried but alright. Since then I’ve encountered them and knew now that I wasn’t that wowed by it.
Then I ended up with more, because why not? So let’s see what I’ve learned since that fateful night, shall we?
Thanks to /u/xreekinghavocx for pouring me this dram.
The whisky that kicks off this multi-review is Aultmore SMWS 73.84 “Tug of war in a meadow”, a 15-year-old refill ex-Sherry butt aged served up at cask strength with an evocative name.
If you haven’t read previous reviews I’ve done of SMWS releases, I have a bias here: I was part of SMWS a few years ago, found the quality dropped in my country (Canada), prices jumped, finishes became more prevalent (to the point where I searched 10+ websites on this one to double check if it was a finish), the bottles got uglier, and I wasn’t buying anymore.
However this is from 2016, before my bias really ramps up too much. So let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: € 123
Vintage: September 24 2001
Number of bottles: 572
Cask type: Refill Ex-Sherry Butt
Stated Age: 15-years-old
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Canned pears, spruce, hard candy/alcohol
Fruity, sweet, and this harsh chemical/alcohol/rough aspect mixed with fruit. I keep looking for something else. Give this time, add some water, sacrifice a goat to the ancient evil of my ancestors, etc. The usual.
Nothing really worked. Stayed in that “rough” lane. Luckily it also stayed in the “weak barely there” stage, like me throughout high school.
Taste: Floral, hard fruit candy, caramel, cinnamon apple
Luckily the taste doesn’t follow the nose down the well of “yucky smells” and instead goes for floral generic candy.
Water really actually brings something more concrete out and some more spice. So I understand why we’re “in a meadow” now.
Finish: Floral, hard candy, anise, earthy
Simple floral, earthy, and a bit spice forward finish. That’s it. Tastes similar to previous Aultmore I have had, though it’s really not showing off too much.
Conclusion: Harsh, needed more time in the cask, and the nose was really weak and not that great. Frankly there’s much better whiskies out there. It’s simple, earthy, and has a bit of spice that teases you with actual flavours.
Yeah it’s going to that one kid’s house where they didn’t know how to make good food. All the cheese is mozzarella and salt is the closest thing to a flavour.
The taste was alright. Frankly this should have been blended into something that needed floral elements. That’s all. It shouldn’t be a single cask. It’s boring and you can have better from most Lowlands. Skip.
Aultmore 30 1989 Single Cask Nation was recommended to me by a friend, so I hunted down a sample.
That’s the lie I tell myself, of course. What actually happened was I hunted down a sample from someone else, mentioned it in passing, and then it was recommended to me.
That shouldn’t have as much impact as I think it does.
Why was it recommended? We didn’t get to that point. I think he liked it. Probably. What I can tell you is this is a 30-year-old Aultmore single cask that was aged in a 1st fill Sherry butt and bottled at cask strength.
Going in? I was a bit worried about 30 years in a first fill cask, however I was also excited about it. I usually go first fill because all the years of being bitter have worn me down to requiring it. That’s a bit of self-deprecating humour, I don’t really know why I love first fill so much.
What I do know is whisky go in mouth, me type reviews. Let’s do!
Vintage: June 1989
Bottled: November 2019
Cask type: 1st fill Oloroso Sherry Butt
Cask Number: 2459
Number of bottles: 465
Colour: 10YR 2/4
Nose: Papaya, brown sugar/apple crisp, treacle, cherry, leather, in line waiting for funnel cake at the fair
Tropical fruit grows to some cooked apple, well developed cereal, rich molasses, leather, and this fried dough notes. Seriously amazing complexity going on here. There’s this oily, interesting cake note and some sharp sweet aspects.
Give this time though. Really benefited from a long time out and even a bit of water after that.
Taste: Cherry soda, ginger, green banana, being in a horse barn, dandelion, candied orange peel
Sharp acidity, sweet notes, some starch, and even these farmy notes. Great grassiness. Blows a certain kids activity out of the water on the grassy elements. We’re talking a dirt patch versus a footy pitch in difference.
The acidity balances on this one to calm all of you who aren’t rushing to your local bakeries (not oddly specific at all).
Finish: Mineral, anise, rich caramel, fresh grass/heather, gingersnaps, Starburst
Some sharp bitter notes, spice, richness to balance that out, more of that good grass, and then more spice and some fake fruit.
It’s funny to think about this finish: It’s a very, very well put together balanced whisky finish. Any other time I’d be saying this is the shining star. But the rest is so, so good that it’s almost a let down that it also isn’t amazing?
Conclusion: Complex, fruity, and well balanced while still having some strong, polarizing flavours. This is a must buy if you find it. Doesn’t matter if you’re a peat head, or don’t like sweets, or do like sweets, or somehow are afraid of success (that’s called being born after 1980), or whatever.
This is amazing. This lives up to the age. There’s so, so many duds after this long, and this isn’t it. It’s fruity, it’s complex, it’s hard to quantify. I had to go back and retry the finish. Why? Because when I re-read my notes and my score I realized that it had thrown off my sense of amazing so much that I wasn’t treating the finish correctly.
Amazing stuff. This is what I’ll be comparing all other Aultmores to moving forward.
Aultmore Antares II 10 2008 First Fill PX Sherry Scotch Universe is also a first fill Aultmore (I have a type) however it’s a) more affordable b) from a PX sherry cask and not Oloroso, which I prefer and c) has a funky name (isn’t that fun).
Really it’s almost the child of the above ones. And like all children there’s one evil parent and one good parent, each balancing them out so they have just the right amount of love and horrible scarring moments, thus making them fit into society.
Also that was a joke, so if that sums you up… please get yourself some help. You deserve it.
Now that I’ve bummed myself out, why did I go for this whisky? Partially because I wanted other Scotch Universe releases (that have since been reviewed), partially due to my love of PX and first-fill casks, and why the heck not?
So does Aultmore do well at young ages? Let’s see, shall we?
Cask type: 1st Fill PX Sherry Cask
Colour: 2.5YR 3/8
Nose: Roasted fennel, butter, brown sugar, grass, pot pourri, gingersnaps
Immediate strong roast-y notes along with spice, that grass/floral that Aultmore leans into, and some nice well developed cereal.
It’s almost like someone asked “what smells do plants create” and someone answered with a whisky. Which I’m here for. For all answers. “Where’s that report?” “Have a dram”. Be a better world.
Taste: Raspberry, caramel, wood, anise, black pepper
Tart with some raw aspects with the spice and wood notes. Not a lot of development going on here. On the one hand that raspberry is nice and I’d want to hold onto it if I was aging this.
On the other hand there’s some rough aspects here that’s blowing me out. Maybe the sherry got too strong? Maybe. Maybe the sherry was always strong and it was a wet cask.
Finish: Papaya juice, heather, anise, brown butter, dark sorghum, leeks, plum
Tropical notes, good spice, strong sharp sweet notes and more vegetal. The sherry and the whisky are fighting for your attention and I’m here for it.
Conclusion: Like having a sherry with your gran while mowing the lawn. Very nice, though a tad sherry dominant at times. It’s not perfect by any stretch.
However as I’ve seen before Aultmore can be picky. Hard to tame. It’s not as floral as Lowlands that shine at cask strength. You almost need a bit of a sherry push, then it shines.
If anything this whisky’s taste is blah. The finish is interesting, the nose is interesting, and that’s pretty good these days. You may not get leather or strong Xmas vibes like others but I feel this is closer to the spirit below than some others. I’d buy this on sight, because ones like this are getting harder to find.
Scotch review #1426-1428, Speyside review #400-402, Whisky Network review #2113-2115