The giver of this gift put me to the test. I had previously bragged to my dear Jennifer that the only curves that rivaled her own were those of my whisky bottles. Needless to say, she did not see the humor.
A few weeks later, I received this as a birthday gift. I was asked to close my eyes. In my blindness, she gently guided my hands to the bottle sitting before me on the kitchen counter. Within seconds, I said, “Aberlour.” She responded, “Okay, so, which one?”
“I don’t like you.”
“Yes, you do. All the Aberlours feel the same, and they all have this wax-dipped seal. This is the only one I said I wanted, the one with the strange name. Thank you, beautiful. I love you.”
So, how do you even pronounce it? And what does it mean? Good questions. I’ve heard it pronounced “ah-boo-NAH-duh.” It is Gaelic for “original.” But you didn’t buy it for linguistic training, did you? You bought it because you were intrigued by the opportunity to enjoy something special, something unlike the others you’ve loved before.
But before the intrigue is indulged, the origin of this particular whisky is wrapped with a gripping yarn.
It is said that in 1975, some workmen were installing a new whisky still when they uncovered a time capsule hiding a very old bottle of Aberlour wrapped in a newspaper from 1898. What did the men do? Did they run to the Master Distiller and deliver the exciting news of the discovery? Did they lay it gently back into its chamber, tucking it back into its keep? Nope. They opened it and drank it, leaving only a tiny bit. Once it was discovered what had happened, the remaining portion was sent to a lab for analysis. Hopefully, while the chemists did their work, the Master Distiller was busy putting those workmen into the time capsule, welding it shut, and putting it back into the floor.
If this is true, then Aberlour’s chemists are to be commended. If not, then Aberlour has solved some other secret riddle from within the very threads of the cosmic order and produced an outstanding “original” by vatting into an Oloroso sherry cask several single malt editions between 10 and 16 years old. (Rumor has it that Aberlour actually used malts between 5 and 25 years, but I tend to think that is probably not true; not because I have evidence, but because common sense suggests that an Aberlour aged to 25 years would be far too valuable to mix with a toddling 5-year-old. I’m sure the distillers are much more pedagogically sound than that.)
At the time of this writing, there have been 49 different batches released, all offering an ABV between 58% and 61%. This special edition, born of batch 36, registers at 60.1%.
Most connoisseurs agree that each batch offers different wonders. However, batch 36 was a long way from my first encounter with batch 17, and yet it was everything I remembered so fondly: rich, complete, and cherried—leaning to brandy-like.
On second thought, if the ground opened beneath your feet and an ancient bottle of Aberlour appeared, why would you not drink it, assuming Heaven had smiled upon you and your labors? Sleep well in the capsule, men. Admittedly, I would have done the same.