A Scotch Whisky Pilgrimage to Aberlour

Take a visual tour of Aberlour’s historic distillery that dates back to 1880.

Every Scotch drinker should make a pilgrimage to the town of Aberlour in the heart of Speyside. It looks exactly like what you would expect a small charming Scottish village to look like. It also boasts the Aberlour whisky distillery, which makes a range of award-winning single malts and whose history is intertwined with the history of the town. Since visiting Scotland may not be on your summer travel schedule this summer, we’ve created a visual tour and history of Aberlour that you can enjoy without leaving your home bar. Sláinte!

Aberlour was started back in 1880 by James Fleming, who was a local farmer and banker. He was intent on constructing the best distillery he could alongside the River Spey. He was more than successful and his brand is now acclaimed and sought after by bartenders and aficionados. It was actually just named distillery of the year by the International Whisky Competition.

The key to making a delicious whisky is to start off with high-quality grains and exceptional water. From the start Aberlour only used top-grade malted barley. It helped that its founder had grown up on a farm that had supplied other distillers with grain.

Aberlour also has its own water source, the Lour, a spring fed by rainwater coming off nearby mountain Ben Rinnes. The water is wonderfully soft and pure, since the pink granite works as a natural filtration system. For decades, the spring also powered a waterwheel that generated electricity for the distillery and the town.

Like all Scotch, Aberlour is made in beautiful copper pot stills. When a still wears out it’s replaced with a new model that is a perfect copy of the model it’s replacing. This practice not only ensures a consistent product but is a link back to the distillery’s earliest days. And in one case, it led to a major discovery. When the stills were being replaced in 1975 the workers found a time capsule that contained a bottle from 1898. That whisky inspired Aberlour’s signature malt, A’bunadh, which naturally means “the original” in Gaelic. It was recently awarded a nearly perfect score from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a gold medal from the San Francisco Spirits Wine & Spirits Competition and was named the best cask strength whisky by the International Whisky Competition.

Fleming was not only interested in building a distillery but truly creating a thriving town. His moto for his company and life was “let the deed show.” To further that goal, he built a local hospital and a town hall. He even set aside money in his will to build a bridge to span the nearby Spey River, which made crossings a lot safer and easier. The town to this day is named after the brand and is a monument to Fleming’s generosity.