Aberlour distillery sits on the outskirts of the town and
with only the original gatehouse being visible from the road it is easily
missed. Park up in a nearby space then head into the gatehouse which acts as
the hub for booking tours, enquiries and the distillery shop.
Aberlour still retains that old fashioned appeal of
distilleries from a couple of decades ago. Tartan is still used on the
distillery bags and the shop hasn’t received a high-end premium make over that
we see so often. Visiting the shop brought back memories of Glenmorangie from
the early 2000’s before its glitzy revamp.
There is only 1 road into the distillery and the tour
commences as we follow the guide down this avenue. After a fire in 1898 the
distillery complex was totally destroyed with the exception of a single
building that still stands today. It is easily visible in the tour photographs
which I’ve posted on the Whisky Rover Facebook page. Sadly no photographs are
allowed in the production areas and we were restricted to outdoor snaps and those
within the tasting and exhibition rooms.
We are introduced to the original owner James Fleming a
local man who made his fortune before building his own distillery. A very
generous individual he financed several significant pieces of infrastructure in
the town including the village hall, hospital and a nearby suspension bridge
after a young child drowned trying to cross the rapid River Spey.
Building a distillery is a costly business but actually
financing its daily running is another significant undertaking. Within a year
of starting production the distillery had to be sold on in 1892 and expanded
further. In 1898 the distillery is almost completely destroyed by a fire and
Charles Doig designs a new distillery to rise from the ashes. It is around this
time that a bottle is buried in the foundations of the still room. When the
still room is extended in 1973, the bottle is discovered by builders who
managed to polish off half the bottle before a furious distillery manager
arrives to retrieve the remnants and newspaper packaging.
This would have been the oldest complete bottle of Aberlour
before the builders enjoyed its contents. What remains is used as the
inspiration for the Aberlour a’bunadh range after being analysed by the company
blenders and scientists. If only instructions were given out before work was
started about the possibility of a bottle – at least you can in theory taste
was an Aberlour from the late 1890’s tasted like.
The distillery today while not epic in size does have an
industrial and sanitised feel. The gatehouse suggests a more period
appearance but within metal wash backs dominate as does an air of computerised
efficiency. Despite the best efforts of the enthusiastic tour guide the
distillery is forgettable. Fortunately the whole experience is saved by the
tasting which incorporates a wide range of Aberlour whiskies that is covered by
the standard tour fee.
I’ll write about the tasting in a separate article. It is
worth holding out for the tasting as this will include the 2 bottle your own
cask options which are a bourbon and a sherry cask release. Both are reasonably
priced at just £65 for a 16 year old and at cask strength offer a real punch;
particularly the sherry. If you make the purchase and enjoy the bottling
experience then you can take your new bottle back down to the gatehouse to pay
for it, which I found very trusting.
Labels: aberlour, distillery tour, Speyside