Aberfeldy is a small town of about 2,000 people. It’s huddled in a valley near the source of the River Tay, and sits on a crossroads. Walking through, it feels very typically Scottish – it’s got a pretty high street, people are friendly and you don’t have to go very far to find a decent pub. Also, it’s got a distillery.
Aberfeldy Distillery is unusual though, mostly because it’s probably better known as the Home of Dewar’s, the blended Scotch brand. At least on the tourist trail anyway. From the start, the branding is all Dewar’s. And actually, it’s refreshing to find a single malt distillery celebrating the blend it is such an integral part of. There’s none of that ‘single malts are just better’ nonsense here.
“Aberfeldy has a great, rich history and story centred round the Dewar’s family,” said Matthew Cordiner, Dewar’s Aberfeldy distillery brand ambassador. And that’s the real ethos of the distillery – it doesn’t just celebrate the whisky (although of course it does), but there’s a huge focus on the family and the history behind it all, too. And there are stories galore.
After stopping by the Pitilie Burn (gotta have a decent water source), we check out the milling. And, of course, there’s a classic Porteus malt mill! On-site maltings stopped in the 1960s, so pre-malted Concerto barley is now delivered by lorry.
Then it’s tun time. The vessel was only designed to handle 6.5 tonnes of grist, but the team manages to produce 7.5 tonnes each time. “We’re actually over-producing,” Cordiner detailed. In total, Aberfeldy makes 3.4 million litres of spirit a year.
Fermentation is really where you start to see the Aberfeldy, as we know it, come to life. The long 72-hour average fermentation brings out that sweet, honeyed note. The distillery has eight larch washbacks and two stainless steel ones, installed three years ago.
Time to check out the stillhouse! Aberfeldy has two wash and two spirit stills, with two shell and tube condensers. In 2014, the distillery switched over to a biomass boiler.
Aberfeldy doesn’t really mature on-site, but there are some casks you can check out…
And voilà! If that’s given you a taste for Aberfeldy, you can visit the Home of Dewar’s all year round!