I fell in love with Dewar’s pretty much the moment it landed on South African shores. Thereafter, it didn’t take long for me to dig into the other malts in the Bacardi stable – Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Royal Brackla and of course – Aultmore.
Aultmore is an old distillery with a new place in the market, having only started releasing official bottlings around 2014. While the vast majority of their product is made for Dewar’s (and a couple of other blends) we were lucky that new ownership and a little elbow grease ensured they would eventually get a place as their own regular release on whisky shelves.
So in that way, they’re still “new” – and have yet to flex their muscles against the sex appeal that is The Macallan or Glenfiddich. South Africa has been blessed with both the 12 and the 18 on our shelves, with the 21 teetering on a launch date. Let’s start with the 12!
Light as a feather. Aultmore 12 is, simply, the definitive “light” whisky – in terms of colour, delivery and gentleness of flavour.
You would never guess you were sniffing a dram at 46%. Not in a million years. More like 40%, which is testament to the ethereal nature of the stuff rising out of the glass. Paper thin, but nevertheless substantial. Well that doesn’t make any sense. Screw it, I stand by it – Aultmore 12 is delicate, but robust at the same time.
Milk chocolate. Fresh, piping hot bread. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or chocolate mousse. An extremely well tuned layer of vanilla on top, no beating you over the head with bourbon casks. Red velvet cake. Decadent all around – supreme level blending.
Where the heat was invisible on the nose it is felt on the tongue – but no complaints here. I had a few “spontaneous eyes closing” moments!
Tightly woven flavours, making it a real challenge to unpack. Like the Spice Tree, without all the paprika. A soft woodiness (more moss than oak barrel), white chocolate, coriander, peppadews. Certainly no overt peat smoke, but a kind of toasted, meaty note right at the back.
But more importantly: malt, malt, malt. Aultmore 12 epitomises the taste of beautifully aged malt whisky. You get those crisp fruity flavours tempered by a little time and patience, earthy and fragrant – truly a product of grain, not of a barrel. Fantastic.
Water does no favours to Aultmore 12, which was clearly bottled at the perfect strength. Ice also didn’t hold up entirely well – those flavours are balanced on a razor’s edge, and can be upset quite easily. Like many complex drams, you end up with a bit of a floral nightmare after too much water. Neat!
Rosemary. It is pure rosemary on the finish. Long, decadent. Perfect.
It will come as no surprise that Aultmore 12 is my favorite lighter-style whisky. Complicated but not “heavy”, rich but not overpowering – and with the option of water off the table (in my humble opinion) it makes this dangerously easy to just “pop and pour” when in a stage of 5pm whisky doubt.
Furthermore, Aultmore 12 reminds me of what great Scotch whisky is all about. Perfectly malted barley, excellently crafted new make, shoved into carefully selected oak barrels for just the right amount to time to highlight the grain rather than smother it. A rewarding, delicate drink made by real whiskymakers, a product of care and attention rather than gimmicks and marketing. True love!