Single casks tasting vs. warehouse tasting
TL;DR: Second day of the Edinburgh Whisky Group Speycation! In the morning, we headed to Aberlour distillery where we split into two groups for a single casks tasting. In the afternoon, we went to the (dismissed) Coleburn distillery for a warehouse tasting with Murray & McDavid. We ended the evening at the Windswept brewery, in Lossiemouth, enjoying pints, music, and good company.
(missed Part 1?)
We woke up quite rested on the Friday morning. The day looked very interesting: a tasting at an already known distillery, followed by a warehouse tasting (as we said a few times, always our favourite) and a visit to a brewery…Not bad, eh?
We had a quick breakfast in the room with some food bought the day before. The alternative was a heavy breakfast at the near Brewers Fayre, but we left it for another day, considering we wouldn’t workout nor run for four days, as we are used to. For this and the next couple of days Justine had arranged a bus: Speyside is a big area to cover, and of course if we used our vehicles, at least 5 of us couldn’t have enjoyed the drams along with the others, defeating the purpose of the trip. There weren’t many others options, as public transport in the area is…ehm…(euphemism alert) not the best? And with cabs it would have been way more expensive. The company sent us a young driver, Lyndsay, which was super nice and it turned out she was a whisky fan too (must have been a torture to watch over 20 people getting pished for three days and not being able to have a sip!).
The first visit of the morning was at a distillery we already knew, Aberlour, but that we have overlooked since our visit in 2019, except for a bottle of A’Bunadh which for a while was our “Teresa’s mother house dram”. Reasons being, their other core releases are a bit dull in our opinion, and there are not many independently bottled. The distillery, however, offers many single cask bottlings (the Distillery Collection). This is a feature of all distilleries owned by Chivas Brothers/Pernod Ricard (Glenlivet, Scapa and Strathisla): they have many bottlings from the distillery and sometimes from the others. Only down side: they are 50cl bottles priced like 70cl ones. We personally have nothing against smaller bottles – we like exploring, so smaller bottles allows us to get more variety, in theory a win-win. However, in some cases (included this) we feel like they are just an excuse to sell less at a higher price.
The group had to split in two because they couldn’t accommodate us all at the same time, and we happened to be in the second, so as usual when we are in Aberlour, we had a coffee and a snack at the Gather’n café. Back at the distillery, we were welcomed in a very nice tasting room overlooking the distillery, some of us on chairs, some of us on comfy sofas.
The four drams were in front of us, as well as a small gift: a set of three branded black glasses, very useful for blind tastings. Gianluigi was super happy, Teresa not so much (you have to know that Teresa thinks we have too many whisky glasses in the house and she’s not too keen on more, but no worries Aberlour, you made at least one of us super happy!). The tasting was hosted by Shirley (that’s her name, if memory serves us well!), initially a bit shy, but ultimately very funny and knowledgeable (also, with a family heritage in the whisky industry). The first dram was a 10y from a first fill ex-sherry butt. It was cask strength (CS, 58.3%), of course not-chill filtered (NCF) and not artificially coloured (NCF), like all the drams. It was followed by a delicious 18y from a 2nd fill (probably ex-bourbon) hogshead (51.6%), a 17y from a first fill ex-sherry butt (58.5%), and finally a quite nice 21y from a 2nd fill ex-sherry butt (58.9%). A good reminder about how delicious Aberlour can be.
We came out from the distillery quite satisfied, had lunch at a nice café nearby, and after a bit the bus picked us up in the village. The next stop was the now not operational distillery of Coleburn, on the road between Rothes and Elgin. The former distillery’s warehouse is now used by the good folks at Murray McDavid (independent bottler) to store some of their casks. So of course, we were going to do a warehouse tasting, hurray! This is the same type of experience they offer during the Spirit of Speyside festival (by the way, if you look at the picture on the festival webpage, that’s us in the photo in the orange vests!).
So, we spent the following hour and a half wondering around the warehouse, stopping in front of certain casks where Dan and Steve would get some whisky and fill our glasses with a mighty valinch, and happily drinking the drams. First off, a young Caol Ila (about 5y), followed by an old Allt’A-Bhaine, 22y, finished in an octave from Koval distillery. They have a great relationship with this producer from Chicago, and we could see many of their octave casks lying around. After another bit of wandering, we had the third dram, a magnificent Glentauchers from a wine cask (continuing the series of “no” answer to the question “have you ever had a bad Glentauchers?”). Finally, a Glenburgie from a sherry cask (oloroso? We don’t remember exactly), another tasty dram, albeit the winner for both of us was the third one.
Unfortunately, they had no shop on site, so we returned the vests and jumped back on the bus, this time heading to the Windswept Brewery in Lossiemouth. The day was nice, so instead of going straight inside, a small group of us decided to walk to the nearby beach. It was a very nice and relaxed stroll, and at the beach we could see the anti-landing concrete blocks from WWII.
Back at the brewery, we had a couple of nice pints and a not-so-good meal from a local burger joint (won’t name names here, but someone told us they have closed). Spending the evening chit-chatting inside, we realised too late that there was a band playing outside…ouch! Overall, it was a nice close to a very nice day, and we went back to the hotel in Elgin very happy!
Aberlour Single Casks Explored tasting
Price: £40.00 pp (October 2022)
Tasting: 4 drams, all CS, NCF and NC: 10y from a first fill ex-sherry butt (58.3%), 18y from a 2nd fill (probably ex-bourbon) hogshead (51.6%), 17y from a first fill ex-sherry butt (58.5%), and 21y from a 2nd fill ex-sherry butt (58.9%), plus three black copitas
Target: Whisky enthusiasts
Value for money: Good
Distillery Exclusive: Most single casks Aberlour bottlings
Recommended: if curious to try non-standard Aberlour’s
Murray McDavid warehouse tasting
(No summary because this was a bespoke experience)