Our convivial guide Dennis joked his way through the tour (telling us that the angel's share that evaporates from the casks and rises to heaven comes down again to earth in the rain thereby delighting the gardeners as the grass grows half cut) and then led us to the all important tasting shed.
Six glasses faced us including including the a'bunadh (Gaelic for 'original' after the 19th century 'recipe' was found in a time capsule and faithfully reproduced), a sherry cask finish and a bourbon cask finish. All three were cask strength, non chill filtered and the latter two, single cask expressions. Sadly, the latter two can only be bought at the distillery itself.
The a'bundah weighs in at a collosal 59.6% abv and is described by the distillery as mixed spices, praline and spiced orange, harmonising with rich, deep notes of Oloroso sherry on the nose and a taste of orange, black cherries, dried fruit and ginger, spiked with dark bitter chocolate and enriched with sherry and oak.
But it was the 14 year old Boubon Cask finish that blew me away with an even heftier 63.3% abv, a chocolate mocha nose and smooth taste and finish. The opportunity to 'bottle your own' from the tapped barrel on the side was irresistable (despite the fact I'd now have to check my luggage in for the flight back to London City) and those who visit the distillery can inspect the registry that bottle No 193 from cask 4427 was indeed hand bottled by yours truly.
At home less than a year later, I'm treasuring the final measures of this now near empty bottle that seems just too special to drink dry; I'm thinking of going back to Aberlour to retake the tour just so I can get a refill!
For the most part though, the a'bundah does the trick and shouldn't be under-estimated, tasting in my view how a proper Scotch is supposed to taste. Who really needs chill filtering? The 10 year old is an easy drink and now a constant companion in the home but still rates an impressive 83 points in Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion placing it in the 'distinctive and exceptional' camp (my fave 'ordinary' Scotch, a 10 year old Talisker rates 90 points in comparison). What's more though, and as alluded to earlier, 10yr old Aberlour is one of the best value Scotches on the market, especially as it's subject to offers at the likes of Majestic and Waitrose on a regular basis. But if you can get hold of the bourbon cask finish...
Visit Aberlour in Speyside or at http://www.aberlour.com/welcome.asp