There seems to be two divergent schools of thought about Aberfeldy, even here at Whisky Magazine. On the one hand, when it opened, we acclaimed it as “the ultimate Scotch whisky visitor centre” yet just last issue our review of visitor centres dismissed it as “an interactive family experience of only marginal interest to the serious enthusiast”. Ouch!So what’s the problem? After all, Aberfeldy is an attractive enough distillery standing on the edge of the small Perthshire town of the same name. It’s not exactly a Johnny-come-lately, having been around since 1896. And the malt whisky it produces, though hard to find, is well-liked and, arguably, deserving of a greater fame.No, it’s the Dewar’s World of Whisky visitor centre that arouses the ire of the purists. This extravagantly flamboyant shrine to the Dewar family offends because a) it’s all about blends, not malt and b) it’s got one or two (relatively) high-tech bits of kit, presumably designed to amuse younger visitors whilst mum and dad look round.For all that, I can’t see what folk are getting so excited about. After all, I would have thought that even the most hard-core enthusiast would be interested in the history of this firm (one of the most important in the industry, even if it’s now owned by the Bacardi group); they might like to see one of the best whisky advertising archives on display anywhere I can recall and they might even appreciate the chance to try their hand at virtual blending, even if single malt is their tipple of choice.Yes, it must be conceded that some of the gadgetry is a little flash – but then the original Tommy Dewar (who features pretty large in World of Whisky) seems to have been a bit of a card himself. I think he would have liked it.And, even if you don’t, you can console yourself that the admission price (£5 for adults) includes a pretty comprehensive distillery tour and a genuinely challenging nosing session with a full measure of Dewar’s thrown in. Whilst the World of Whisky is self-guided the distillery tour is accompanied by a guide – in our case, Ross, possessed of a deep and penetrating voice to match his stature.That came in handy almost immediately. After a brief introduction underneath the former malt kiln we entered the mill room with the usual Porteus mill. Unusually, this one was working – not that it bothered Ross in the slightest and his confident commentary was perfectly clear against the background thrumming of the rollers.The tour carried on through the distillery, past an attractive model of the distillery and grounds. Sadly, it’s not large enough to show J K Rowling’s house though you can glimpse the trees it hides behind on the opposite side of the River Tay.The still room is gleaming, wellorganised and compact, with an excellent view out to the river. Again, our guide gave a clear and coherent explanation, answered the odd question confidently, and then whisked us off to the old filling store for yet another film presentation and a cooperage display. You certainly get your money’s worth here.After that, you’re free to return to the shop and café, or stroll along the ‘nature trail’ where, allegedly, red squirrels can be seen. They evidently had the day off when we were there.There’s also a VIP tour where, for an extra fiver, you get several more interesting whiskies to taste and a gift of a tasting glass. Tommy Dewar once said “We have great regard for old age, when it is bottled.” Perhaps, despite its Victorian credentials, Aberfeldy all seems a bit, well, new. I expect we’ll get used to it!Aberfeldy Distillery and Dewar’s World of Whisky, Aberfeldy, Perthshire.
Tel: +44 (0)1887 822 010
Open all year.