By the Whisky Couple

This is the trademark of Aberlour distillery in Speyside, Scotland. One of the lesser-known single malts, it deserves to be discovered and recognized on its own merits. First let’s have a look at the distillery’s history. Aberlour was built in 1879 in the eponymous village along the borders of the fast flowing River Spey. After a fire destroyed the original buildings, the distillery was entirely rebuilt by Mr. Fleming, a local entrepreneur, successful businessman and a great philanthropist. His motto was “Let the deed show,” still imprinted on the label of each bottle of Aberlour. One of the important things he did for the village was financing a hanging bridge over the river after a little child had drowned. Such were the man’s actions.

The single malt is also a noble one and has gained recognition among connoisseurs, not least since the whisky produced here matures in two different types of casks: ex-sherry butts and ex-bourbon barrels. Only after maturation are the contents of the two types blended and bottled as Aberlour in different vintages, among others a 12, a 16 and an 18-year-old. Aberlour A’bunadh is bottled at cask strength, the second word meaning “origins.”

Recently your Whisky Couple was re-introduced to this gentle but flavorful single malt at a special event near Brussels, Belgium, dubbed “When Two Casks Meet.”

Long-term ambassador and good friend Ann Miller was flown from Scotland to host a remarkable evening, where we were to deconstruct the flavors of Aberlour. She brought two bottles especially for the occasion — one containing the mature malt from a single ex-bourbon barrel, the other a sample of the ex-sherry butt whisky. We were to taste them separately, then blend them in a third glass in front of us and compare results. A really fun experience, but that was not all. When we were finished blending, Ann introduced us to Mr. Patrick Castelain, a well-known Belgian aroma expert. He lectured the audience on the value of using aromas for marketing purposes, illustrating this with best practice examples. Did you know that the scent of chocolate in a bookstore will actually stimulate you to buy a book?

Then came an exquisite dinner, created by top chefs Bruno Antoine and Abi Azaouaj. Bruno is one of the most creative chefs of the Brussels bistronomic world. He owns restaurants Emile Bistro and Charlotte Café/Cuisine in the capital of the European Union, where there is ample international appreciation for the best that Belgian cuisine has to offer.

Each course was accompanied by a special Aberlour expression. Simply stating “course” does no justice to what Bruno and Abi created. First, each guest received a small plate with two primary ingredients from the coming dish, chosen to match the whisky poured. Then the full-blown dish was served with garnishes enhancing the flavors. In this way Bruno deconstructed his own creations and then assembled them on the plate.

We’ve hosted and have been guests at a score of whisky dinners throughout the years, but never experienced such a surprising approach. Here’s what Bruno, Abi and Ann offered us at Serre Des Rosières — a converted greenhouse in a suburb of Brussels:

Aberlour 18-year-old with smoked wild salmon, fennel marinated in berries and sumac, fennel smoked in wine leaves, citrus spices and sour cream and horseradish; Aberlour 16-year-old accompanying scallops and oysters flambéed with Aberlour, iodine and sea lettuce, meringue with sepia; Aberlour A’bunadh with Beersel teriyaki pork ribs, organic yellow chicken, candied potato, egg parfait, grilled butternut, shallot texture and seasoned jus; Aberlour 12-year-old completed the evening with a chocolate masterpiece, sherry fondant, bourbon caramel, bitter sponge cake, cream of chocolate and rice crispies.

Readers, do try tasting one of these expressions with the cuisine suggested; bon appetit!

Slante mhath,

 

The Whisky Couple

 

The Whisky Couple

 

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