The Aberlour parish report dated 1836 in the Second Statistical Account of Scotland (SSAS) states that “there is one whisky distillery, on a large scale within the parish, situated at Aberlour”. Now, this was likely to be the early distillery mentioned above, but by saying “at Aberlour” exactly where did the author mean? Some sources have the grounds of Aberlour House as the location, with the distillery being built by the local Laird, although I’m not aware of an original source for this claim and the house wasn’t built until around 1838. There is no evidence of the distillery buildings either today or on any maps I can find as it appeared to have only operated for a short while before detailed map surveys were available.
However, could the SSAS author have meant the Aberlour Burn when he stated “at Aberlour”, i.e. at the actual Aber (mouth of) Lour (loud or chattering burn), particularly as the village in-between the Burn and the House is recorded as
|Aberlour Distillery c1896|
Barnard was escorted round by Mr Gauld, the Brewer; I was met at the office by the entrance gate by Jonathan Osbaldiston who was most hospitable and generous with his time for my questions. There was a large international group for the tour, always a welcome sight at our distilleries, and we spent a happy and relaxed two hours seeing round the distillery and tasting a fine selection of their produce.
|Aberlour Distillery Fleming Rooms|
The barley is sourced from around
|St Drostan's Well Stone|
The original mash tun was relatively small at 12 feet wide by 4 deep but here Barnard offers something a little different - the worts from the tun were cooled in a pipe 200 feet long that ran through the concrete worm tank, rather than using a Morton refrigerator or open tank cooling that were more common then. A new stainless steel semi-lauter tun was fitted in 1972 to replace a previous cast iron tun. The 12 tonne mash receives three waters and produces 56,000 litres of wort for each washback. The original washbacks were also relatively small with five of them at 18,200 litres each. The six stainless steel vessels now here replaced wooden backs in 1972 and they ferment for just 48 hours to produce a very sweet wash at around 8.5%.
I mentioned the old concrete worm tank earlier and Barnard was quite fascinated by its “novel cooling plan”. It was 50 feet long by 6 wide and just 3 deep and he describes a water flow that “rushes along the one side and back the other, over the worms, proving the simplest and most effectual condensing method we have met with”. This water flow also powered two water wheels but neither the tank nor the wheels have survived.
At the end of his report Barnard notes that “near the entrance there is a small office for the Distiller and another for the Excise” but I think he is here referring to the entrance to the yard that he has just finished describing rather than the entrance gate by the main road. The building beside the entrance is dated 1897 and was built as the Distillery Manager’s home, later converted to offices and the small distillery shop where a warm welcome to this enchanted corner of Speyside awaits you.
|Aberlour Distillery office and shop|
|Aberlour tasting room in Warehouse No.1|
The 10yo we sampled was not the usual
The final whisky was the A’bunadh which is Gaelic for ‘of the origin’. This whisky was intended to recreate the style of Aberlour as it was around James Fleming’s time, except without the peaty notes that would have been present then. The idea came from the discovery of an old bottle that had been bricked up in one of the buildings and which was wrapped in a newspaper dated 1898, the year of the rebuild after the fire. The A’bunadh is batched exclusive from sherry cask whiskies which is representative of those earlier times as bourbon casks were not introduced into Scotch whisky production until the 1920s, and the predominantly younger whiskies married in each batch would reflect the age of whiskies commonly drunk at the time.
Jonathan had earlier described the pagan Celtic history that was relevant to the location; the mysticism and enchantment of the chattering water and woods providing a place where our ancestors would worship and invoke the spirits of nature. The oak tree that is the emblem on Aberlour labels and the pure water that flows here were key elements of their culture and Jonathan playfully suggested that our adoration of the water of life matured in oak casks made pagans of us all as we joyfully celebrated those elements that are brought together to create it. The Burn of Aberlour could even be heard chattering away outside the warehouse during silent moments of contemplation of the whisky before us, the spirits of nature murmuring their appreciation of the craft that is employed on the banks of the burn.
|Burn of Aberlour chattering outside Warehouse No.1|
I’m beginning to feel a real attachment to Speyside that I hadn’t known before, similar to that which I normally feel for