What makes aberlour so special ?
At Aberlour we believe in substance over style. Our whisky is born out of craft, passion and knowledge that’s been handed down through generations. Our story is of community, locally sourced ingredients and families of craftsmen who have shaped us into who we are today. We believe our whisky, with its depth of flavour and character, speaks for itself. Aberlour is generally double-cask matured in Oloroso Sherry casks and American Oak barrels before being brought together when mature and ready to make the final product.
The maturation process adds new flavour notes and characteristics which mature over time to create our recognisably rich and complex Speyside single malt.
Aberlour’s truly unique taste is derived from two fundamentally important ingredients: pure, soft water of the Ben Rinnes and barley – grown within 15 miles of the distillery. After steeping the barley in water, it’s then transferred into a germination vessel by our expert maltsters, turning regularly to promote even growth. Once the sugar levels are at their peak, the maltsters kiln dry the sprouting barley. This is known as the malt.
Using traditional methods in our mill, Aberlour craftsmen patiently grind batches of freshly dried malt into a coarse, starchy flour called the grist. The husks in the grist create a natural filter bed that traps solid particles to clarify the wort in the subsequent mashing process.
In the mash house, heated spring water is carefully added to the grist in a mashing machine before entering the mash tun, where the mixture is gently stirred to allow the enzymes developed during malting to convert starch into sugar.
This mixture produces an almost clear liquid with a sweet, malty character: the wort, and subsequent water applications ensure all the sugars and flavours have been leached from the grist. The first two waters are pumped to a large vessel called the wash back for fermentation, while the third water is returned to the heating tank for the next mash.
Using water from the Birkenbush Springs, the wort is cooled to 20 degrees and transferred from the mash tun to the washback where yeast is added to begin the fermentation. For two days the heaving, bubbling mixture is carefully monitored as the sugars in the wort are converted into alcohol with flavour compounds that impart distinctive new tastes and aromas. This result is a frothy, beer-like liquid with an alcohol content of about 8.5 per cent: the wash.
From the beginning, Aberlour stills have always been unusually broad at the base and rise high like a swan’s neck, where the vapours enter copper shell and tube condensers. Here, in the wash distillation, they condense into a liquid call ‘low wines.’ The liquid which has an alcohol content of around 20 to 22 per cent, is collected into receivers ready for the second distillation.
During the spirit still distillation, the stillman draws off the colourless new make spirit in three fractions: the ‘head’, ‘heart’ and ‘tail’. Only the delicately berry-flavoured heart goes into the spirit receiver for maturation into Aberlour single malt whisky; the head and tail fractions are returned to the still to be distilled again.
Most Aberlour single malts are double-cask matured in first fill ex-American Oak barrels and ex-Oloroso Sherry butts. Rare, expensive and hard to obtain, these are personally selected by our Master Blender from traditional distilleries in the USA and Sherry makers in the Jerez area of Spain. Every cask is individually nosed to make sure the wood has exactly the right combination of aromatic qualities for Aberlour.
Twelve years of sleeping in the casks allow the liquid to take on subtleties of flavour from the oak casks. American Oak casks add sweet notes of vanilla and toasted coconut; the Oloroso Sherry butts impart a fruitier, spicier richness and dark amber colour. Bringing the two together in the correct proportion to achieve the perfect balance is the secret of the Aberlour distiller’s art.
In other words, the proof is in the drinking. What better way to discover all those balanced flavours in your glass, than tasting it at the source? Try a guided tour of our distillery and meet the experts as they take you through the process in person. Like Aberlour itself, it’s a memorable experience…