Aberlour

Steeped in centuries of legend and surrounded by the dramatic Highland scenery of Ben Rinnes, the village of Aberlour lies at the very heart of Speyside, where the Lour burn joins the River Spey. The exceptionally pure, soft spring water used for making Aberlour whisky is drawn from nearby natural springs.

In this special place, the resources of nature and the founder’s passion for making the best single malt combine to make the generously multi-layered whiskies of Aberlour.

Fast forward to the 19th century and we find James Fleming, the son of a local farmer and supplier of grain to local distilleries. To Fleming, the voice of the chattering burn whispered something different altogether: the secret of his long-held dream, with an ample supply of the water with which to create the finest Speyside single malt of them all. He duly set about building what was soon hailed ‘the perfect model distillery’. A daring modernist, he spared no expense and personally supervised every detail of its design and construction. And magically, instead of steam, his ideal new distillery was entirely powered by a waterwheel driven by the rushing Lour burn itself. Many in modern Aberlour still remember it.

Rather than boasting about the distinctive qualities of his Aberlour single malt from his fine new distillery, Fleming remained true to his family motto since the days of Robert the Bruce: “Let the deed show.” The proof was in the drinking. Aberlour spoke for itself.

As did Fleming’s other deeds. He was wise enough to realise that although the secret of his whisky lay in the spring waters, its quality depended on the craftsmen of Aberlour. Unusually for the era, he took it upon himself to improve their lives. He cared. As well as playing an active part in the community, he built the town hall and funded a cottage hospital. Moved by the loss of young lives in the dangerous ferry across the Spey, he even provided in his will for a suspension bridge, the Penny Brig. Yet no pictures of Fleming exist – only the signature that still marks every bottle of Aberlour. Let the deed show…

Fleming’s presence remains very much alive in the village today, as does his ethos. The words at the entrance of Aberlour House, a radically experimental village school in its day, speak for the community as a whole: “There is more in you than you think”.

At the distillery, you find the same wisdom and skills, honed by long experience – the current 18 year-old was distilled and laid down to mature by craftsmen who still work there. And the same dedication; Aberlour distillery managers have even been known to play their bagpipes to the maturing casks.

ust as Aberlour spring water speaks of its journey through the granite, new conversations join in at every stage of fermentation and maturation. Subtleties introduced as the malt dries still whisper in the glass. The engaging character of the new spirit begins to assert itself during fermentation and the two distillations. The hand-picked oak casks also have their stories to share – those previously steeped in Bourbon hint at sweet vanilla, while the former Oloroso sherry butts add a rich, spicy, full-bodied fruitiness as well as the deep amber colour. The art of the Whisky Maker lies in marrying the two into a compelling single tale.

Streams don’t really talk, of course. There’s no such thing as fairies. And the only thing spring water cures is thirst. But the end result of all these expertly judged exchanges in the distillery is a selection of generous single malts that have much to say, and say it with sincerity, depth and flair. Whether taking time out to reflect or talking with friends, Aberlour has stories to tell – and that’s how it’s enjoyed all over the world.

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