Sit down and pour yourself a dram — because we’ve got a story to tell. And, like any story worth sharing, it begins with a bold, daring idea. The year was 1879 and James Fleming — the son of a grain farmer in Banffshire — decided to build the Aberlour Distillery from the ground up.
But Fleming was no traditionalist. He was a trailblazer, an experimenter — a pioneer of the highest, whisky-soaked order. He realised that Scotch whisky owed much of its flavour and silky texture to the nation’s pure spring waters, and so he vowed to discover a way to respect his country’s waterways in return. How? By harnessing the might of the Lour Burn river with a grand waterwheel.
The wheel spun and the whisky came. Aberlour ran both into the barrels and out into the community; with Fleming’s distillery funding a town hall, a cottage hospital — and even building a suspension bridge, the Penny Bridge, after a young boy’s life was claimed by the fast-flowing Spey.
When Fleming died, his mantra remained: ‘Let the deed show’. It’s a simple, humble nudge in the direction of honesty and integrity; a call to let one’s stellar work talk for itself. And these four words still ring true more than a century since the whiskymaker’s death. For today, the cult brand continues to deliver on deeds.
“Let the deed show…"
The local community continues to be supported; with the barley used to create Aberlour’s whisky grown mere miles from the distillery itself. The craft is still honoured and respected, with each spirit sleeping for at least twelve years in Spanish sherry and American oak casks to develop the flavours it deserves.
And, to mark the beginning of the salmon fishing season every February, a bottle of Aberlour is poured into the Spey to bless the waters; a drop of luck for the loyal locals.
Of course, there is yet more to be discovered. Today, Aberlour has a core collection of six whiskies — 12, 14, 16 and 18 Year Old expressions, and the Casg Annamh and A’bunadh bottlings. Each is double-casked in those sherry and oak barrels; matured and minded until the flavours of vanilla, toasted coconut and richness of dark fruits have suffused through the spirit. It’s an age-old process to admire — and special to discover for the first time.
That’s why we tasked three craftsmen and creatives to discover Aberlour’s range for themselves. From a coffee-quaffing photographer to a publisher-cum-presenter, this true trio of Renaissance men count everything from style-gazing to storytelling among their passions. Like the rest of us, the last year’s lockdowns have proved a font of discovery for the men; with new pastimes uncovered and hobbies honed.
That’s why, when we gave them the chance, all three were itching to uncork some Aberlour and discover the cult brand for themselves…
Oliver Hooson, menswear blogger and coffee enthusiast
Be it by architecture or street style, Oliver Hooson is easily entranced. But, for a man whose focus flits between food, fashion and the froth of well-made cappuccinos, he’s got a surprisingly sturdy finger on his camera’s shutter. Here, he explains how discovering the subtle, rich flavours of Aberlour whisky reflects his zealous, tenacious work ethic…
As a coffee enthusiast, what emotions does discovering new flavours stir up in you?
New flavours have always stirred up excitement in me, and conversation amongst my friends. As a group of certified coffee nerds, we regularly jump on the phone or Zoom calls to chat about the latest coffees we’ve found — to discuss flavour profiles, and our drinking experiences.
Was your experience discovering Aberlour similar?
It was. I’d liken the drinking experience with Aberlour to the way I drink coffee. From the very first sip, you can taste the work that has gone into its distillation, the subtleties of the individual elements that give it such a distinctive profile.
So when did you discover that you didn’t want to work a single prescriptive, restrictive job?
I actually started out working a 9-5, working on my photography in my spare time, using it to document my life in Chester. Through this, I got on the radar of a few brands, had the carrot dangled and took the leap. From the off I enjoyed the creative freedom it afforded me — and a few trips to London later I was doing it full time.
Aberlour can seem complex at first. Do you find initial challenges to offer richer rewards in the long term?
When I first took the leap from my full time job to being a freelance photographer, I didn’t appreciate the time and care taken when taking the photographs themselves. It took several shoots and late nights to truly appreciate the whole process, and what truly makes a great image. It’s about the whole process, from the lighting to the subject and space — not just the editing at the end, or the push of the button.
Shawn Webster, fashion blogger and creative storyteller
Perhaps better known by his well-subscribed Instagram handle, @sugsean, Shawn Webster grew up on the sun-soaked Caribbean island of Anguilla. As a child, he would help his great-aunt stock her boutique with the finest local garments. Today, two decades later and four thousand miles away, he continues to influence the style zeitgeist. Here, he reveals how the act of discovery — be it of flavours or fashions — fuels his daily life…
Aside from the boutique experience, where did your love of fashion come from?
Every Thursday in primary school, we were allowed to wear non-school uniform. And this ability, to choose what you wore, really cemented how fashion is a tool for self-expression.
What about whisky, when did you try your first dram?
I went to a whisky tasting when I was 18-years-old. That was my first time learning about how whisky is made — and the importance of the barrels. I find it fascinating that the barrels are key to determining the taste and colour, and I have subsequently enjoyed learning about the diversity of barrels that can be used.
And Aberlour has a lot of lessons to instil. Will the brand feature in your life going forward?
I’m a huge whisky lover, so it’ll fit in perfectly! I love that Aberlour is single-malt. It’s perfect to have on the rocks or even with some water. It really is the ideal Friday night treat to start the weekend off on a high note. I was surprised that Aberlour keeps the whisky the original cask strength. That’s what gives it quite the unique — and delicious — flavour.
Have you always enjoyed sharing brands and products you’ve just discovered with others?
Yes, definitely! I am passionate about sustainability and, lately, I’ve been really interested to share sustainable brands and ways of living. For example, I’ve been wearing the same blue cap in many of my photos — because I’m trying to put effort into investing in high-quality clothing and re-wearing it.
Jack Guinness, model, presenter and writer
He may have begun his career as a model, but Jack Guinness (and his handsome beard) has become the archetypal multi-hyphenate during the last decade. Today, few social circles and professional industries remain undabbled-in by the writer-publisher-presenter-influencer-director-activist-contributor. Here, he explains how Aberlour chimes with his own indomitable spirit…
What is it about discovering new spirits that you enjoy so much?
Spirits are created with such craftsmanship and care. I view trying new spirits in the same vein as wearing a suit by an up-and-coming designer or a trying a new scent made by a master perfumer.
Where did this passion for fashion and style first come from?
When I was younger, I felt that everything around me was beige! Fashion represented colour, fun and something different to what I knew. Over the years, I’ve developed my style and my wardrobe. I can go one day from wearing a beautifully tailored three-piece suit from Savile Row, to something more relaxed.
What surprised you most during the process of discovering Aberlour?
The A’bundah. It’s a truly delightful and special whisky. Knowing that each bottle is hand-made and created with such craftsmanship and care makes it taste even better. Its intensity and intricacy of flavour was out of this world!
And how does Aberlour, as both a spirit and a brand, fit into your world?
The smooth and intense flavour of the 14 Year Old is the perfect drink to accompany many moments, and it particularly fits perfectly within my world. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that taking time to appreciate the finer things in life is incredibly important. We’ve learned that our world can be easily rattled and thrown upside down, so it’s important to savour and appreciate everything.
Like what you hear? It’s clearly absorbing stuff. And, since we gave these craftsmen and creatives the opportunity to discover Aberlour on their own, it seems only right that we give you the same chance.
That’s why Gentleman’s Journal has partnered with the far-flung, highly-regarded distillery to send a lucky winner up to Aberlour, where they will discover the process, history and spirits in authentic, memorable style. They will win return flights to Aberdeen, a tasting and tour of the distillery, and an overnight stay in The Dowans Hotel. And, to remember the trip, they’ll also be sent home with a bottle of their own choosing.
Sound good? Then enter below to be with in a chance of discovering Aberlour for yourself…
Want more spirited reading? These are the best whisky glasses (to do your Scotch justice)…
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