An Interview With Aberfeldy Ambassador Matthew Cordiner
We sit with Matthew Cordiner, the new Global Malt Whisky Ambassador of Aberfeldy, and get to know him a little more!
Tell us a little more about what it means to be a brand ambassador for whisky, and more specifically for Aberfeldy.
Growing up in Speyside; the Single Malt Whisky capital of the world, I’ve been surrounded by whisky for as long as I can remember - from my first trip to the Speyside Cooperage, to see how barrels are made when starting school in the village, to becoming a distillery tour guide in my summer holidays at university. Most days there have been conversations about whisky going on around me as I grew up with family and friends working in the industry. Whisky for me is home for that reason – a sense of place, people, and passion.
Before I took on the global role, I was based at Aberfeldy Distillery for two years, looking after special visits. It’s one of the most picturesque distillery buildings in Scotland, and I now consider it my ‘spiritual home’ having fallen in love with the whiskies honey rich flavour profile.
My favourite part of being a Global Malts Ambassador is getting to travel the world, sharing my love of whisky, and by extension my home… and it counts as work. I still can’t quite believe it!
What makes the brand Aberfeldy stand out from the rest?
Aberfeldy whisky is known as the ‘Golden Dram’
(a ‘dram’ is a glass of whisky in Scotland). The distillery’s water source is the famous Pitilie Burn
(a ‘burn’ in Scotland is the name given to a small body of flowing water like a stream) - renowned for its water quality and its rich deposits of gold. Historically there have been seams of gold in the hills around the village which have been mind. These seams have slowly been washed down through the soil in to burns, deposited as ‘alluvial gold’. At the distillery today, we take that water and turn it into ‘liquid gold’
in the form of our whisky.
For me, Aberfeldy is the perfect whisky - new whisky drinkers find it easy to enjoy thanks to its honey-rich flavour profile; created through a long fermentation, and our distillation in handmade copper pot stills, which encourages plentiful copper contact to refine the spirit's character, while whisky aficionados luxuriate in the abundance of complex flavours coming together across the range. It makes it a great gift, as you know it’ll always be enjoyed.
What are some of the toughest things and challenges you’ve faced when it comes to whisky education?
One of the toughest challenges I’ve faced is people thinking there is only one correct way to enjoy whisky – neat, but that simply isn’t true. I’m no purist. I think whisky is a drink to be drunk and enjoyed however you best enjoy it. It’s no new thing to mix whisky, and something we’ve seen across its history as far back as records go; Atholl Brose of the 1400’s, Hot Toddy of the 1600’s, Scotch & Soda of the 1800’s, or Highball of the 1900’s to name but a few. A good cocktail is only as good as its worst ingredient, so if it’s a whisky cocktail, a good whisky is key.
When it comes to cocktails, I love an old-fashioned. I usually go for a simple twist on the classic called a ‘Gold Fashioned’ with Aberfeldy 12YO, substituting the sugar for honey, which helps accentuates the honeyed richness of the whisky. The honey together with the addition of aromatic and orange bitters helps balance the serve whilst bringing extra complexity, drawing on flavour cues of orange and vanilla. If you want to make one at home you’ll need:
1tbsp honey syrup (create by combining 50/50 local honey and cold water, stirred down and add to preferred taste)
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish with orange zest and serve over a large block of ice in a rock's glass. Enjoy!
What is some advice you’ll give to anyone looking to pursue whisky, whether it be tasting it or learning about it?
Every day is a school day when it comes to whisky. It’s such an interesting category, with a wealth of flavours to explore and a rich history - there is always something new to learn.
My recommendation for anyone learning to appreciate the differences when tasting whisky is to setup a few different whisky samples side-by-side. At first, whisky might just taste “like whisky”, but when you start to have points of comparison, it helps you decide how different whiskies differ from each other. Find a copy of a whisky flavour wheel when doing this, as it can help you find the words to describe what you are tasting - which can often be a challenge in the beginning when you’re not used to thinking about flavour in this way. A tulip-shaped tasting glass (such as a Glencairn or even a wine glass) is also a good idea to help guide the aroma to the noise. Also adding a drop or two of water (room temperature) after a neat sip helps to open the whisky up to the noise, releasing more of the aroma, making it more palatable to discern flavour.
Now I’m not a bottle collector but I am a book collector and have spent years building my collection and hunting down rare 1st
editions in old Scottish book shops. Three fantastic books I would recommend to anyone getting into whisky are Maclean’s Miscellany of Whisky
by Charlie MacLean as a great overview on production and history, The Pocket Guide to Whisky
by Bowman & Welch to explore flavour, and a copy of the latest The Malt Whisky Yearbook
for up-to-date information on the industry.
Most important thing to remember when pursuing an interest in whisky is… have fun! As we say in Scotland – Slàinte! (cheers).
Matthew Cordiner is available at @maltmatt on Instagram