Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch Review [In Depth]

Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Finish Scotch

Alex author
Founder, writer
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Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch Details

Distillery: Aberfeldy

Type & Region: Scotch, Scotland

Alcohol: 46%

Composition: 100% malted barley

Aged: 21 years

Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (chestnut, oloroso sherry)

Price: $230-300

From the company website:

Finishing this 21-year-old Single Malt in Argentinian red wine casks brings classic Malbec notes of blackberry, plum and black cherry. Nuanced flavours of cocoa powder, violet flowers, leather and sweet tobacco spice to the whisky. Distilled on 14th November 2001 and matured for over two decades in a combination of re-fill barrels and hogsheads, the whisky was then finished for a period of around 8 months in Malbec French Oak wine casks, sourced from Finca Ambrosia Single Estate winery, in Argentina.

Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch overview

I’m going to start off this review with an admission – I’ve never had Aberfeldy Scotch before. On top of that, I don’t drink as much scotch as I used to, although it was my first love with whiskey and I’ve had a lot of it over the years. I’ve also traveled around Scotland and done a few tours, and every now and then it’s nice to get back on the horse to dive into Scotch.
In my Scotland travels, I did visit a bunch of distilleries (including Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, and Aberlour), but didn’t get the chance to visit Aberfeldy. The distillery is located in the Highlands, not too far from Blair Athol and Glenturret. It’s more in the center of Scotland, where I didn’t do as much exploring. If only I had more money and time off.
I learned something new from doing a little research for this review – Dewar’s owns Aberfeldy. Just like Johnnie Walker owns a bunch of distilleries, with a lot of it going into a lot of bottles of Johnnie Walker bottles every year, I guess Dewar’s does something similar. It makes sense, if you have these massive brands and need a lot of Scotch, your best bet is to own a distillery (or a few) so you can reliably produce it.
Anyway I digress. What we have here, and the point of this review, is Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch, batch 2923/M. It’s a 21 year old highland malt most likely aged in bourbon casks (Aberfeldy says refill barrels and hogsheads), then finished for 8 months in specially selected french oak casks that aged Malbec from Argentina’s Finca Ambrosia Single Estate winery (this is definitely a fact). I drink wine from time to time, but I can honestly say / write that I’ve never heard of them before.
Argentinian Malbecs are usually rich and bold red wines, maybe not quite to the level of a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, but not so far off either. But like many bolder red wines, you usually can expect that cask finishing will add some red fruit sweetness, oak, cinnamon, and other red wine-like traits. I’m a fan of the wine and wine finishes in general
I will also admit that I made a mistake and forgot to photograph this sample bottle before drinking, so I can’t show you how unique the color is. It has a bit of a bright grapefruit hue to it that I’ve never seen in whiskey before. The color chart I use doesn’t capture that nuance, and neither will my photos of the empty sample bottle
Let’s find out if lengthy maturation and a red wine finish create a memorable experience in this Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch review.
This sample was provided to me at no cost and with no compensation besides the sample. All opinions are still my own.
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As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch smell

Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish has a nicely fragrant burst of grapefruit, blood orange, roasted malt, honey, cherry, starfruit, lightly toasted oak, bright red grape, and a little bit of passionfruit.
It’s very grapefruit / red citrus-forward, which is likely the mix of tropical bourbon cask maturation with some of the red fruit notes that darken the citrus.
There’s a strange juxtaposition with the ABV. As fragrant and expressive as it is (because of the age and finish), there is a little bit of unexpected bite and heat. At the same time, the 46% ABV leaves me wanting more body, fullness, and oomph. It’s definitely not thin or all that hot, but after 21 years it could do so much more as well.
After swirling and rest, I smell honey, grapefruit, blood orange, toasted malt and oak, starfruit, some plum on the lower-end, and a little bit of hay and mint. Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish is fragrant and very enjoyable, but something about it feels almost uninterested. I’m not saying that it’s uninteresting…but uninterested…meaning that the scents aren’t shy / flat / boring, but something about it lacks sufficient pop and life.
As nice as it smells, which is still very nice, it doesn’t fully capture what 21 years of cask aging can do.
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Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch taste and aftertaste

Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish has honey, grapefruit, blood orange, toasted oak and malt, starfruit, and a little bit of red grape peel and red apple peel. It’s fruity and tropical with a toasted malt and oak background, and just a little bite.
While it is flavorful and vibrant, the middle of the road richness and fullness don’t help elevate it further. There’s a little bit of a roasty and malty bite too, which I don’t expect to get with malt this old.
And even though this was finished in Argentinian Malbec casks for 8 months, it still doesn’t feel long enough. It infuses accents of darker red fruits, but I generally prefer a heavier wine finish.
With hard “chewing”, I taste honey, grapefruit, blood orange, toasted malt and oak, starfruit, mint, vanilla, and fresh plum with a little bit of coffee. There is a simmering heat and bite that catches me off guard. I’m surprised to find it, especially for a malt this old. Delicious? Yes. Mature and refined? Yes to some degree, but occasionally no.
At first, the finish leaves honey, grapefruit, blood orange, toasted malt, and oak with lingering starfruit, toasted malt, oak, cinnamon, and mint. It’s surprisingly toasty. After “chewing”, it leaves honey, grapefruit peel, plum, toasted malt, and mint followed by lasting toasted malt and fruit peel.
The flavors and finish do open up and bring out more tropical brightness and shimmer that make it feel more complex and interesting, but the viscosity and richness are still average at best, although not thin. I’m looking for more oomph and impact, regardless of ABV. I’ve found some 43% ABV rums (additive free) to be very substantial and hefty, and it’s not unreasonable to want that from this.
Again, the Malbec finish still feels too subdued. It doesn’t have to be so strong that it feels like I’m drinking a red wine, but if done right, the added finish has the potential to round out and elevate the Scotch to make it more compelling.
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I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish Scotch Rating

Top Shelf
Aberfeldy 21 Year Argentinian Malbec Cask Finish is one of those “Top Shelf” whiskeys that’s worthy of the rating, yet still feels oddly disappointing and hard to recommend. It’s probably contradictory, but bear with me on this one.
The scents and flavors are heavily influenced by the lengthy bourbon cask maturation (or it at least feels like one), which is to be expected. It’s nicely tropical, fruity, and bright, and the malbec cask finish adds hints of darker fruitiness.
Nonetheless, I can tell that the base malt holds it back from being worthy and exceptional. The standout bourbon cask aged single malts (with or without finishes) brim with round and full tropical vibrance. I find that fresh fruit salad (with the really good fruit) is usually an accurate description. Aberfeldy 21 Year Malbec Cask Finish has some of these traits, hence the rating, but falls short at the same time.
For me at least, the “limited edition” Argentinian malbec finish is clearly too subtle and out of the way to feel memorable and unique. Don’t get me wrong, this smells and tastes great and I’d happily drink this all the time (if I had that kind of money), but for something like this I’d expect denser red grape, oak, and chocolate notes. It needs more impact and wow.
As good as the whiskey still is, the biggest problem is the price, which makes it a hard pass at upwards of $250. This is maybe $150 good for Scotch and that’s even pushing it. You’re mainly paying a huge premium for the 21 year old age statement (because that’s still a lot of time), but it ultimately doesn’t deliver an experience commensurate for its age.
Price does not influence my rating, but it can and will affect my tone. This is not a compelling “limited” release.
Not that this is a remotely appropriate comparison, but even the younger Yoichi 10 Year at $150-200 (yes a Japanese Single Malt and not a Single Malt Scotch) feels more rich, lively, and complete. That’s 10 years old, not 21, and yet it feels more impressive, rich, and developed. It’s still mad expensive for sure.
To be totally honest, I don’t drink as much Scotch as I’d like (I only have so much sobriety for bourbon, rye, rum, and tequila to start with), but if I was going to spend that much money on Scotch, this would be way down the list. For some reason, Glenturret 12 Year comes to mind as something I’d buy instead for less than half the price.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)