Aultmore 12 year 46%

Bonds of friendship, strengthened over a good dram, can span the globe and remain solid even if opportunities to meet are rare.

Such is the case with one friend from the US who happened to be in Mumbai while I was in the US. As I braved blizzard conditions in North America, she was enjoying catching up with our Whisky Ladies in much more pleasant conditions.

I returned home after she left, to be greeted by a lovely bouquet of lilies, some delicious chocolates and carefully put away in my whisky cabinet, a generous and much appreciated gift – an Aultmore 12 year.

Aultmore 12 year 46%

  • Nose – A lovely fresh citrus, delightful drizzle of honey, some vanilla then crisp orchard fruits, a creamy quality with a nougat, oak, bit of spice
  • Palate – Sweet with a light spice, a bit malty with gentle wood, more of that nuttiness, cream almost oily
  • Finish – An easy finish with spice, surprisingly long with the spice continuing
  • Water – While it isn’t needed, a splash of cool water goes well too, making it even more accessible

There was something quite fresh about this whisky, reminding me of spring bursting with new growth with a soft perfume in the air. Nothing complicated, it is easy and enjoyable, understated yet really rather good – one I’m delighted to have grace my whisky cabinet.

As I raised a silent toast to my friend, I thought it rather appropriate to have such an enjoyable sociable dram remain as a malty reminder of our times together… and look forward to the next chance our paths cross somewhere in this world

And what do the folks over at Dewar have to say?

Crisp notes of apples and pears with an aromatic floral finish.

What about other Aultmore experiences?

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Gordon + MacPhail – Aultmore 2000/2014 46%

Next up was an Aultmore I’d had the pleasure of sampling this back in October 2015. The original purchase request was for the newer version from 2002 (bottled 2016) at only 43%, however I was so happy to see this one make its way to Mumbai that I kept it to myself!

Aultmore Distillery lies several miles north of the town Keith on the eastern fringe of Speyside. The distillery was established and building commenced in 1895 by Edward Alexander. The distillery initially did well and production was doubled in the first few years. However, the Pattison crash (1899) hit Edward hard as he had been a large supplier of bulk whisky to Pattison. Production continued at Aultmore but times were difficult; closing during WWI with the barley shortage, then Edwards sold the distillery to John Dewar & Sons Ltd in 1923. It was rebuilt when temporarily closed from 1968 to 1971, this time under the auspices of United Distillers, a pre-cursor to Diageo. Then in 1998, Diageo sold the Aultmore Distillery to Bacardi, subsidiary of Dewars – yes back to its earlier owners – in a deal worth more than £1 billion!

Known primarily as an element in blends – initially Pattison, then various for Dewars and others, it has only more recently emerged as a single malt. It should be noted that Aultmore whisky is not matured at the distillery site.

We sampled a 2000 vintage Aultmore bottled by Gordon & Macphail as part of their Connoisseurs Choice range. And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Aultmore (2000/2014) 46%

  • Nose – Initially very sweet, then spice, baked pear, grassy, wildflowers, fresh meadow, then star anise, fresh mint – almost like paanAfter the 1st sip, a lovely lemon peel, so subtle and nuanced
  • Palate – So much going on… herbal, almost reminiscent of Underberg, though has a thin body, it has such a lovely delicious quality, roast cumin, some darker notes which made it eminently more complex and enjoyable
  • Finish – Brilliant! Spice to chewy bitter back to spice and soooooooo long, as it evolved took on almost a burn match quality
  • Water – Initially punches up the spice, makes the palate fruitier, nicely rounded, with a sweet finish with a hint to bitter to make it interesting

For many, this was the most interesting as its character kept shifting as we settled down and let it evolve.  Each sip revealing more elements, all in subtle harmony.

Aultmore 2000

On the bottle, the notes confirmed it was matured in refill American Hogshead and refill Sherry Hogsheads. They describe it as:

The whisky has herbal and dried fruits aromas with hints of charred oak. On eat palate there is a delicate fruitiness with spices and a touch of oiled wood.

More detailed tasting notes from Gordon & MacPhail are for the 2000 vintage bottled in 2012 not 2014. Here is what they say about the 12 not 14 year Aultmore:

Without Water:

  • Nose – The whisky has herbal, dried apricot and raisin aromas with hints of charred oak.
  • Taste – Delicate fruitiness, with red apple and pear flavours. Festive spices and a touch of oiled wood linger.

With Water:

  • Nose – Toasted malt and sweet summer fruit aromas, blueberry and raspberry. A subtle cinnamon edge lingers.
  • Taste – Peppery and sweet with hints of green apple and plum. Becomes creamy with a smooth milk chocolate edge.

Would we agree?

This bottle was purchased at The Whisky Exchange for GBP 53 and freshly opened in November 2017 for our Whisky Ladies.

The ‘affordable’ G&MP trio featured:

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Gordon + MacPhail’s Affordable Trio – Glendullan, Aultmore, Longmorn

I’ve long been a fan of Gordon & MacPhail – finding they deliver consistent quality for value – even in their younger or entry level ranges. I decided to test this by deliberately selecting a few of their most affordable offerings – all around 50 GBP – for a special Gordon & MacPhail evening with the Whisky Ladies in Mumbai.

The purchasing was easy thanks to help of a friend who stopped by The Whisky Exchange in London. The gradual import into India took a bit more time. What required the most patience of all was waiting for an evening to share with the Whisky Ladies!

Two of the whiskies selected were from their “Connoisseurs Choice” range which was started in the mid-1960s by Gordon & MacPhail to bring to whisky aficionados whiskies that were less readily available as a single malt at an overall reasonable price range.

One was from their “Distillery Labels” range using unique distillery designs once used ‘officially’ to bottle the whisky under license from the distillery, now in disuse except through a special relationship with Gordon & MacPhail.

The Whisky Ladies Gordon & MacPhail trio featured:

Fabulous each one in its own unique way…. 

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Origins and palate preferences?

While most of my posts are filled with tasting notes of various whiskies explored, I must disclose the observations are typically an amalgam of several palates as the drams are shared and discussed as part of whisky clubs of informal sessions with friends.

I value the different reactions to what we try and recognize our perceptions of a whisky’s aroma and taste is inextricably linked to associated memories of distinctive yet familiar smells and flavours.

Hence you will often find my tasting notes peppered with references that are both common to say North America and equally India. This is simply a part of the duality of my life – hailing originally from Canada but living long term in India. Our cultural and culinary context influences our interpretation of a whisky.

For the most part, palate preferences are specific to an individual. Some love deep dark rich sherry drams, others long for the curl of peat, some prefer fruity and others saltier fare… for many, like me, preferences are context and mood dependent. My preferences have also shifted significantly over the years as I’ve gained exposure into different styles and the extraordinary range the world of whisky has to offer.

So why then was I so surprised at our last Whisky Ladies session? Where there was a very clear distinction between the reaction of those whose origins are outside of India vs those whose origins are within?

It was our first and only time where there was such a divide – sure we have different reactions and different opinions. That’s a huge part of the fun of tasting together! But not so diametrically opposed along lines of origins.

And what was the controversial whisky that provoked such a reaction? The Aultmore 5 year 66.8% Master of Malt which was first sampled as part of an exception evening of “Dream Drams” with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula.

The notes I took did not reflect the full story:

  • Nose – Sherry, chocolate, nutty, figs, dates, banana bread with nuts and sultanas
  • Palate – For some it was smooth, bursting with rich Christmas cake for others a complete brushfire – of pure fire
  • Finish – Very dry, long, cinnamon and cloves spice… for others just numbing like going for dental surgery
  • Water – Helped make it a bit more accessible

So what was the distinction? Well… those originally from India found it just too much alcohol and simply didn’t care for it at all… in short found it nearly undrinkable.

And those originally from outside India who have adopted India as home? Could go past the high alcohol strength to find interesting elements… in short found it drinkable. While perhaps not a 1st choice, certainly not a last one.

It was awkward to have such a peculiar palate divide and strange to have origins so firmly come into play.

However, our best discovery of the evening? The cask strength Aultmore goes brilliantly with our host’s home made banana bread! Just as we discovered those notes in the whisky, like magic – out came one of the best banana breads I’ve had in literally years!

Good baking and whisky – fabulous combination! And a great close to our sampling session.

What else did we taste in our Whisky Ladies “Worthy Whiskies” Sunday Sundowner?

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Worthy Whiskies – Mortlach, Arran Amarone, Lochside, Aultmore

We’ve had several attempts to hold a Whisky Ladies evening in Versova so when I suddenly found out I would be traveling to North America and it happened to be the same night, I simply had to ensure it was a flight after our session rather than reschedule yet again!

And it was completely worth it. Having a chance to overlook the Arabian sea as the sun set is indeed a lovely backdrop to sampling whiskies in wonderful company.

Particularly when this was a “Worthy Whiskies” session which brought together:

Tasting this time had a bit of a twist – the Lochside and Aultmore were previously sampled with another set of fellow whisky aficionados. The Whisky Ladies reaction to the Lochside was very much in synch, so I combined the tasting notes. Whereas the response to the Aultmore was curiously divided… prompting a completely different post

Just click on the links and read on… reactions and opinions welcome!

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Dream Drams – Aultmore 5 year (2007) 66.8%

Master of Malt for years has been my ‘go to’ online source when searching for just a little bit more about a particular whisky – including an idea of price!

However until our rare malts session with Malt Maniac Krish Nakula, I had never had a Master of Malt bottling… to have it be a young 5 year old Aultmore… at a mind boggling strength of 66.8%? Very intrigued…

Aultmore 5 year (12 March 2007/May 2012) 66.8% 1st fill sherry oak puncheon, Bottle 021 of 628 (Master of Malt)

  • Nose – Nutmeg, egg nog or Dutch Advocaat liquer, spicy buttermilk like chaas, quite herbaceous, spicy, creamy, avocado, phenolic like walking into a chemist’s shop, then all spice, a Bengali panch phoran of cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard seeds and kalonji (nigella), then shifts into delightful sherry notes of rum raisins, stewed plums
  • Palate – Spice, honey cinnamon, no doubt this was high alcohol but not dauntingly so, mince pie, thick honey, treacle, marmalade, chillies
  • Finish – Very dry, has a bit of a burn, extreme clove on the finish, then a debate between black liquorice and fennel, then again the nutmeg

I must admit, on the 1st sip, three tasters grabbed for water… when adding water to the whisky, we found:

  • Nose – Lots of sweet notes, pepper spice, almost like spiced rum
  • Palate – It needed the water! Breath through sweet spice… again it was almost rum like
  • Finish – Remains dry yet more accessible

Overall we found the complexity and range of elements remarkable for such a young dram – particularly given its high strength.

Krishna kindly gifted this bottle to me so that the Whisky Ladies could try it in an upcoming session. As I prepared to write this post, I was tempted to do a small pour to revisit… and gave in… All elements were consistent with what we found earlier, with the sherry quality even more pronounced.

What I hadn’t observed in the 1st round was how much this reminds me of the powerful and flavourful Hampden 2010 Jamaican single rum…. at 68.5%, there are few spirits out there quite so high in alcohol that are still eminently drinkable. Or so I thought… turns out some of the Whisky Ladies had a different opinion!

While the Aultmore 2007 is no longer available, the folks over at Master of Malt have a 2009 version for $71.

This isn’t the first time we’ve bottled a 5 year old Aultmore for our Single Cask Series, nor is it the first time that whisky from this distillery has shown so well at such a relatively young age. No coincidence there. Distilled in May 2009 and bottled in April 2015, this bottling says “age ain’t nothing but a number”. Other numbers include 65.4, the natural cask strength abv, and 122, the number of bottles produced.

PS – Alas this Aultmore was the victim of a cracked cork… which meant a perfect candidate for an anti-oxidation trick.

Other whiskies savoured in our “Dream Drams” evening:

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Aultmore ‘Foggie Moss’ 18 year 46%

Once upon a time you hardly heard of Aultmore… Capitalising on this, the folks over at Bacardi aka John Dewar & Sons created a marketing campaign positioning Aultmore as one of the Last great malts of Scotland known as a “secret dram of locals and Buckie fishermen.”

Late 2014 they began to release three different expressions:

Aultmore is a rare Speyside malt known locally as “a nip of the Buckie Road.” The distillery’s water filters down through the misty, mysterious area called the Foggie Moss. Aultmore is rated top-class and is a dram sought after for its gentle grassy notes. Aultmore will be available from November with a 12- year-old, a 21-year-old in Travel Retail, and a 25-year-old in limited quantities.

By July 2015, this was joined by the 18 year which I picked up for another member at the “World of Whiskies” shop at Heathrow Airport after sampling a nip of the 12 and 21 year… At that time our tasting group had never tried anything from Aultmore so thought – why not?

20151119_Aultmore 18
Here is what we found… naturally tasted blind!
Aultmore ‘Foggie Moss’ 18 year 46%
  • Colour – Straw
  • Nose – Blue cheese, very fruity – particularly sweet lemon, seems quite effervescent, “Very nice!” Some jasmine flowers, a little licorice, herbs, mellows into a clean, light, crisp note
  • Palate – “Nice taste!” Considered more in the laal mirch (red pepper) kind of spice rather than the prick of black peppercorns, a burst of lemon, a bit chewy, a little leather, subtle but very much there…
  • Finish –  A little haldi (turmeric), more of the faint leather… the finish is light but stays, understated but impressive
  • Water – Much better without water
  • Speculation – Distinct, didn’t feel like we’ve had it before
  • Comments “A bit difficult to grasp initially, yet once you’ve cracked it, beautiful to be with!”

The unveiling – surprise! We actually HAD tried an Aultmore just the previous month – the Aultmore 2000 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail to be precise.

Once we knew the age, we started to speculate that perhaps they use 2nd fill bourbon casks given the light colour. Overall, we were pleasantly pleased and while ‘nice’ may seem a bit tame as a description, it really was quite… well… ‘nice’ in an enjoyable way!

The other whiskies sampled in our November session included:

Aultmore 2000 46% (Gordon + MacPhail)

Our October tasting session had a theme of ‘go slow’… let the whisky evolve… Each had its unique character and each needed proper time and focused attention to unravel its mysteries.

We also went back to our original ’spit the 1st sip’ approach – helping us better calibrate our palate to appreciate the three distinctly different whiskies.

Our first whisky of the evening was yet another treat from independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail – this time a delicate Speyside from Aultmore.

Altmore 2000

Aultmore 2000

Aultmore 2000 46% (Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice), Bottled in 2014
  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Floral fruity, ripe peach, sweet and very inviting, has a sense of being velvety smooth, exceedingly tempting, as it opens a bit of nougat
  • Palate – Initial ‘1st whisky’ hint of being bitter, then after our first swish & spit, the next sip revealed a delicious honey, mild spice. For once the palate is every bit as good as the nose promised, exceedingly well-balanced, delicate yet still manages to coat the palate from top to bottom, balanced and oh so smooth and creamy
  • Finish – Some debate as the initial impression was the finish was quite limited… yet still felt satisfying. As we ‘tuned’ ourselves to the nuanced character, began to appreciate that in fact it has a long subtle finish, really quite delicious!
  • Water – Don’t… Water does not enhance and makes it seem terribly young with a spicy kopra
  • Impressions – Like a delicate Japanese or Chinese paper cut, very well-rounded, very easy to drink…

Speculation… As we sample blind, we began to assess our thoughts about the whisky. It vaguely reminds of Glenmorangie in its light fruity floral sweet character yet different. Age was a bit difficult to gage – not very young but also not too old. Certainly not more than 16 years… Sense that the alcohol hovered around 43% given its light approachability.

The reveal… Our first as a tasting group from this distillery and yet another ‘hit’ from independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail. It is getting to the stage where we can blindly grab anything from their Connoisseurs Choice line!

Our host shared that he briefly sampled it at a whisky event in Europe. While normally such light whiskies are not his personal preference – this one stood out as something compelling enough to explore further. We agreed!

Knowing it is a light whisky and would be the first of the evening, he chilled the whisky for 45 mins in the fridge before serving to help ensure the viscosity for our tasting.

Our conclusion was that this was the kind of whisky  you would just sip on your own while reading a good book, curled up with a cosy blanket on a cool evening. Something to slowly enjoy its subtle range of aromas and taste. It doesn’t need conversation. It doesn’t need company. It is for those times you simply want to relax in quiet comfort.

Here’s what the Gordon & MacPhail folks have to say about this Aultmore:

  • Matured in a refill American hogshead and refill sherry hogshead. Natural colour. Non chill filtered.

Without Water:

  • Nose – The whisky has herbal, dried apricot and raisin aromas with hints of charred oak.
  • Taste – Delicate fruitiness, with red apple and pear flavours. Festive spices and a touch of oiled wood linger.

With Water:

  • Nose – Toasted malt and sweet summer fruit aromas, blueberry and raspberry. A subtle cinnamon edge lingers.
  • Taste – Peppery and sweet with hints of green apple and plum. Becomes creamy with a smooth milk chocolate edge.

Previously Aultmore was rarely available as a single malt beyond independent bottlers, instead found as part of popular blends like Dewars.

Some may recall that I tried a couple Aultmores on my July London trip – both the 12 and 21 year – part of Bacardi’s “Last Great Malts of Scotlandrange. I was surprised to find them so appealing – and recall being impressed that the promise of the nose followed through on the palate.

I, for one, look forward to both exploring more Aultmore and more from Gordon & MacPhail!

The other whiskies we sampled in October included:

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