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Drink a Dram with Delin: Age Statements and Aberfeldy 12 vs 21

by Delin Watmough

Delinquent Delin from Clan Inebriated here (long story)

Well, that was a Christmas for the books, wasn’t it? I hope everyone got to spend some time talking to family even though we couldn’t visit them. My wife Stephanie made a wonderful Christmas dinner for just the 2 of us consisting of Turkey, Neeps (turnips), Tatties (mashed potatoes), Haggis, and gravy accompanied by one of my favorite whisky’s (Glenglassaugh Special Edition Peated). So while it wasn’t what we wanted to do, we did manage to make the most of it. As I am writing this, the FSC is in the middle of their fundraising auction so I hope everyone had the chance to bid on some of the amazing products so generously donated to the club. However, I have to say... I MISS TASTINGS !!!!! This will make the 3rd tasting we have missed doing due to Covid and I personally can not wait until we are allowed to have them again. Tasting by myself, while it can be fun, is just not the same as tasting with other people. That being said, I am going to do my best to see we have one as soon as it's allowed.

This month I am going to touch on something that can be both costly and contentious:

Age statements.

While some people swear that a higher age produces a better whisky, I personally am not completely sure about it. Due to the cost of maturing a whisky 12, 15, 18, 20+, years, a lot of distilleries have been coming up with different ways to mature whisky in order to produce the same complexities in flavor without having to go to the expense of storing a product for decades. Many of my personal favorites do not have age statements but instead use smaller casks to achieve more flavor and complexity in a shorter time frame and at a much lower cost.

Laphroaig Quarter cask, Glenglassaugh Special Edition, and Ocotomore 7.3 are excellent examples of this process. Other Distilleries use different casks for example rum, port, and even icewine casks are used to achieve different flavors and complexity.

However, this month I am going to put a 12 year Highland whisky head to head with a 21 year Highland whisky and lets see if age really makes a difference.

A while ago (actually a couple of years ago, I think) Railside Spirits brought in a Aberfeldy 21. I normally do not buy Highland whisky’s for myself, but this was such a good price that I picked one up and brought it home and it has been sitting on my shelf unopened ever since. (Currently they do not have any but I am sure if you ask either Railside or Co-op liquor in Killam they will bring one in for you. The Wainwright liquor store does currently have these in stock for around $150). So, when I was trying to decide what to do this month’s write up on, I decided to open this 21 and compare it to the readily available Aberfeldy 12 (around $50.00 currently in stock at Killam Co-op Liquor store) head to head. Because while I do have both a Bowmore 10, 12 and 18, and a Laphroaig Select 15 and 18 (the 18 is currently discontinued so if you find one, buy it!), both of those are heavily peated and do not appeal to everyone so I thought the Aberfeldy was a better choice.

Aberfeldy 12

-rated 4 - 4.5 out of 5 in most reviews

- creamy to the nose with sherried fruit and a hint of smoke

- tastes sweet and malty with a clean mouth feel

- finishes with a ginger malt

Aberfeldy 21

- rated 4 - 4.5 out of 5 as well

- noses with a honey and thick fruity smell

- smooth vanilla taste with refined smoke

- finishes gently with ripe peach and honey

(Both of these reviews were from Master of Malt)

I tasted these in a blind taste test with the help of my wife in order to eliminate any bias. She pored 2 identical glasses with the same amount in each glass and did not tell me which was which and here are the results:

As to color, both whisky’s were identical

They were also identical to the nose, although one was slightly less “burny” than the other. However, for both, I picked up the honey and fruit but no smoke.

Also, the less burny one had better legs (if that kind of thing matters).

Now to the taste, this was where the rubber met the road so to speak.

Both whisky’s were sweet and fruity but not overly sweet. Yet again, I detected no smoke whatsoever. But the less burny one was creamy and smooth with a delightfully clean aftertaste. The other one was less refined as well as being a little harsher. However, both were good whisky’s, especially for someone new to whisky.

The Reveal:

The less burny one turned out to be the 21 and I have to say it has made my top ten. It was very easy to drink and quite enjoyable to the point I was almost licking out the glass LOL.

Now... is that difference worth the $100 difference in price? I guess it depends on how much importance you place on a very smooth and creamy whisky and how much difference that slight burn makes, but I suspect a drop of water would dissipate that burn. I would have no issues serving either of these whisky’s to my friends but I can definitely say, at least in this instance, age does make a difference and the 21 will have a place in my cupboard while the 12 will probably find it’s way to the Ale House LOL.

Well, that’s it for another month. I truly hope things open up soon so we can all get together for a wee dram where I will explain my new nickname to those who don’t already know the story.

May your days be long and your glasses full


Delin Watmough


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