Aberfeldy has been releasing an 18 year old expression each year for three years now, every one finished in a different type of red wine cask. That’s a slavish devotion to a particular — yet slightly different — type of finishing, and results have been decidedly mixed. After two years in France, this year Aberfeldy takes the show to Italy, finishing its single malt in “Tuscan red wine casks” — which are actually from Bolgheri.
Let’s give this year’s limited expression a whirl, shall we?
There’s quite a nose here: Richly spicy, the aromatics are loaded with raisin and undercut gently with notes of toasted cereal grains and cream of wheat. Lightly woody and smoldering with just a hint of char, it’s inviting and appropriately wintry. The palate kicks off with a rush of fruit — plum and spiced cherry — then folds in more baking spice, evoking gingerbread and some fruitcake-adjacent dried fruits. But things take a shift from there in short order, offering an unsteady blend of unbaked bread and gooey wine tannins. These linger well into the finish — which is quite long — where notes of green pepper and coconut husk give the whisky a distinctly savory, umami quality before fading out with a grind of black pepper.
It’s more interesting and overall better than last year’s bottling, but I for one am ready to move past the red wine world after three years of these releases. Guess we’ll see about that.
B+ / $150 / aberfeldy.com