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Aberfeldy 21 Year Old

Average score from 8 reviews and 12 ratings 85

Aberfeldy 21 Year Old

Product details

  • Brand: Aberfeldy
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 40.0%
  • Age: 21 year old

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Aberfeldy 21 Year Old

Day 7 of the KWM 2020 Whisky Advent Calendar is Aberfeldy 12 Year Old, which I not only reviewed before (though many years ago), but also had some in October during the Spirit of Toronto Online Masterclass with Stephanie MacLeod. So I don't think there is any point to doing a second review of it, but luckily I have some Aberfeldy 21 Year Old that I haven't written about yet, and we can do a wee side-by-side. The 21 Year Old was launched in 2005; my bottling is not the current design but the one before that (I bought it many years ago, but didn't open it until the October Masterclass). It comes in a lovely box with a silk lining inside to cradle the precious liquid within (I guess).

The colour is a rich gold. On the nose the primary note is heather honey (definitely part of their house style, which I learned during the Masterclass); also cinnamon, mango, orange peel, light caramel, strawberries and really firm oak. Rather biscuity. Maltier with water. It's a rich, luscious nose, quite decadent.

The palate is fruitier with orange pulp, more honey and light spice. Mackintosh toffee. Some coconut, and also some serious oak to give it backbone. Thin mouthfeel, but creamier and silkier (and spicier) with water. Nutty but can't place it more specifically. Sweet (but not too sweet) and delicious.

The mouth-drying finish has orange zest, kumquat and allspice - very Christmas-y! This really is yummy stuff - nothing that knocks anything out of the ballpark but it is a rich, honeyed, fruity dram that is a pleasure to sip. Now, the calendar offering of the 12 Year Old? It noses very young, where the orange peel here is dried or candied - not nearly as rich; and the palate and finish share the same notes as the 21, just far more muted. Seven years ago I scored the 12 an 86; I think I would mark it a few notches lower this time around.


This is the last scotch I had the opportunity to taste at the eponymous (and now defunct) Scotch Bar in Madrid (if you have read my reviews you might know I loved that secluded spot.) And it was in fact a suggestion on the side of one of the very knowledgeable barmen working there, who could always be trusted. Alas, I'll miss that joint.

OK, that much for nostalgia. Now, the review itself (jotted down in situ with a pen on a coaster, Nov. 2018 -for those who like details): color is amber, no oily streaks. Aroma is quite intense: pine needle, smoke, citrus (bergamot, orange peel), butterscotch. Pour some water and pineapple scents bloom.

Mouthfeel is warm and velvety, with a clear umami sip leading to a very smoky, citrus-ladden, long-lasting finish. And as only great scotchs do, this one is able to regenerate your inner mouth tissues, rather than burning them. A great feeling I have only experienced on a few occasions (for example over a dram of King George V, to name but one.)

Sounds very nice. Would it benefit from a bit higher ABV?

@BlueNote I'd say it would, but it's already formidable being as it is.


The older version of the Aberfeldy 21 Year Old was matured exclusively on bourbon casks, but this more recent release – from 2014 – has some sherry matured whisky in the mix.

The nose is rather closed. A get loads of barley and dark honey, but not much else. It takes a while before it shows its true colors. Hint of chewing tobacco, candied orange peel and some floral elements. Orange blossoms. There is a lovely dusty side to it though, as if I am in the attic.

Unfortunately the arrival is pretty weak. The fruitiness now translates mostly into blood oranges, grapefruit and sultanas. A touch of woodspice with cinnamon and nutmeg in the lead, followed by some ginger and liquorice. Hint of chocolate and apricot marmalade.

The finish is disappointingly short. It starts fairly sweet and pleasant, but quickly turns somewhat bitter.

I believe this malt would fare much better at 43 or even 46% ABV. At the current strength it is all pleasant and well, but rather thin.


The Aberfeldy 21 was one of the first few whiskies I bought early on. Don't really know why other than it seemed fairly affordable for a 21 year old whisky and I believe it was generally rated quite high among critics.

What do I personally think of Aberfeldy? I don't, actually. I've had the 12 year old at a bar somewhere and was completely unmoved. I had this one sitting on my shelf for the longest time and was completely unmotivated to open it.

Aberfeldy, owned by Bacardi, is the largest component of malts to go into the Dewars blend which would explain it's 3.5 million litre annual spirit output.

The distillery itself puts out three single malts as part of it's original bottles: the 12, 18 and the 21 with the rest going into blends or snapped up by independents.

This 21 year old from the Highland region has been finished off in sherry casks having spent a large part of it's life in both first and second-fill bourbon barrels.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a weakish 40%

Nose: Honey. Heather. Malt. Fruits. Soft apricots. Poached apples. The tiniest of toasted oak. Puff pastry. Sliver of dough. Eucalyptus. Let it breathe and it mellows. Now more floral. Heathery. Oranges. It's a nice enough nose. 22/25

Palate: Quite thin. Takes time to evolve. But then comes around nicely. Oranges. Butterscotch. Vanilla. Red apples. That same toasted oak as on the nose. Chew it a while to get some purple fruits. Decent. 22/25

Finish: Lingers. Quite dry. Woody. Hint of spice. Betel leaf. 21/25

Overall comments: It's very hard to rate a whisky like this. It didn't offer me the complexity that I was looking for nor offer me anything unusual, to be honest. And maybe that's the reason it does well in a blend.

I have to understand that not everyone is looking for fireworks when it comes to their whiskies. Some just like to keep things simple.

And that's exactly what this whisky is.

@MaltActivist, thanks for a very informative review.

I haven't yet tasted Aberfeldy 21 yo. Even at a better than average price for 21 yo whiskies, does one really want to buy an 87 point middle of the road offering? Isn't this what blended whisky is for? Stuff like Compass Box Asyla or Great King Street Artist's Blend?

Knowing your style and your tastes after 3 years I completely understand why this one sat for a long time unopened on your shelf. Our tastes are very similar in this respect. Not something you expected to get your blood pumping. And you were right.

Thanks again for your review.

@Victor To answer your question - Nope. No reason at all. Like I said it's super hard to find any major faults with a whisky likes this without being completely subjective and saying 'Nah, I really don't care much for this.'

But if given to me at a friends' place while I'm socializing I'll thank them for the hospitality, finish my whisky and promptly forget about it.

Is that how I want to treat a whisky? Certainly not.


nose:warm and sweet, traces of vanilla, hint of sugar, touch of honey did not sense any peat.

taste:mellow sunset with a cooling westerly breeze. imagine sitting in a chaise lounge by the pool in nevada looking west as the sunsets. pink/orange/warm yellow filters through the horizon. cascades of sunlight dances in the distance behind the the deep dusky red sierra mountains. little pepper but more smoky, warm than hot. burnt molasses, a hint of citrus

complexity:one of the most complex and full bodied scotches i've had so far. rich in texture and elegance wrapped up in a sweet expression of mischief and delight.

finish:soothing amount of spice with a dash of smoke and pictures of red sierra mountains off in the distance over the horizon as the sun wishes you a pleasant evening with a wink and smile.

there is no doubt this is my favorite scotch. this exlir is tamed by the sweetness of the sherry but allowed to florish and sooth your soul with hints of vanilla, citrus, peppers and a touch of smoke. enjoy with a bold cigar but hold the water.

Wow...you make the Aberfeldy 21 sound delicious and perfect for summer. I can't wait to open mine now!


Can a difference of 1 year really make so much difference to a whisky that it would justify an extra £60 at the checkout? That’s what we wondered so the inaugural meeting of the 101 Club – set up by a group of Edinburgh-based whisky enthusiasts to check out the whiskies in Ian Buxton’s book 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die – was a side-by-side blind tasting of Aberfeldy’s own 21 year old and Gordon and McPhail’s bottling of a 20 year old single cask Aberfeldy.

OK, we know that there’s a world of difference between a distillery expression and a single cask bottling but our view was that the distillery bottle would need to very good indeed to be worth three times the price of the single cask.

Aberfeldy’s bottle is described by Royal Mile Whiskies as ‘an old smoothie for after-dinner sipping’. There’s no denying that the 21 year old is smooth, mellow and sweet. It has a light flowery nose with a flavour that is delicately oaky with a hint of spice. While the flavour is very pleasant (making it, what one of the assembled company described as a good session malt) it was undistinguished. The Gordon and MacPhail bottle, on the other hand, was full of flavour. Nothing restrained and elegant about this guy – it’s more oily in the glass and has a less subtle nose, the oak more prominent. Undiluted it is harsh but with warm it becomes lighter, fruitier and more complex. While the 21 year slips down the throat like a soothing medicine, the single cask dances in the mouth.

So with only one year separating them, they were as @mistersmith1 put it “…different in every way from the colour to the smell and the taste.” Although the Aberfeldy 21 year old was very popular, the consensus came down firmly in favour of the independent bottling, with only @Redmaaan favouring the distillery. Expensive taste that man.

No. A serious flaw, indeed. I think the comparison is mostly between the single cask and a vatting by the distillery, not the extra year of maturation. The 101 club sounds like a fantastic idea. I have yet to try an Aberfeldy. I will need to remedy that as time and funds permit.

Dammit. Can't edit?


I have happy memories of the village of Aberfeldy in Perthshire, and I used to walk past the distillery twice in an evening for a month back in the eternal summer of 1968.

I was 16 years old then and my holiday job was as a grouse beater, driving the birds across the moors to the 'guns' sitting in (and on) their butts, waiting to unleash both barrels at anything which came their way.

I was reminded of that golden Summer recently when I had a taste of Aberfeldy 21yo in the very different setting of an airport World of Whisky shop. It was light, floral, spicy and completely charming. It will be greatly admired by those who like that sort of a thing.

In short I admired it rather than coveted it and when it came to forking over the readies for a bottle of something to share with friends, I was seduced by a bottle (Ok, two bottles) of Redbreast 12yo. One taste confirmed the wisdom of the choice - it knocked my socks off - and I bid goodbye to my golden memories of tramping the moors of Aberfeldy.


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