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GlenAllachie is relatively young by Scotch whisky standards. The distillery was founded during the 1960s whisky boom, the first time new distilleries had been commissioned in decades. It’s designer, William Delmé-Evans, was also involved with the creation of Tullibardine, Jura and Macduff.
The distillery has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. In 2017 it was purchased by Billy Walker, Graham Stevenson and Trisha Savage, who came together as The GlenAllachie Distillers Company Limited. The deal included two other Scotch whisky brands, White Heather and MacNair’s.
The new owners launched their version of the GlenAllachie single malt in 2018. Expressions included a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old cask strength bottling. The range has since diversified further with the addition of an excellent 15-year-old.
GlenAllachie announced the release of a new Wine Cask series in April. The selection would include “premium barriques used to age fine wines across France, Italy and Spain”. There’s an 11-year-old Grattamacco Cask Finish, a 12-year-old Sauternes Cask Finish and a 13-year-old Rioja Cask Finish. After initial ageing in American oak ex-bourbon barrels, the whisky was transferred to wine casks for up to two years of additional maturation. Each release is bottled at 48% abv.
11-Year-Old Grattamacco Wine Cask Finish
The GlenAllachie Grattamacco Wine Cask Finish retails for £58.99. It has been finished in certified Organic Super Tuscan barriques made of French oak from the Grattamacco winery in Tuscany, Italy.
The Grattamacco Estate was founded in 1977. It was one of the first to produce wine along the Maremma coast in Italy. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese grapes.
Smell: Summer fruits mingle with oak and pepper. Starts out full of strawberry and raspberry but becomes more citrussy with time. Orange. Plum. A wee bit of barley malt and some gentle baking spices too. Woody note throughout. Water brings out some toffee notes. Ever so slight note of sulphur too.
Taste: More of that orange citrus. Plum. Raspberry ripple. Lots of spice. Touch of oak on the finish. Water releases more of the berry notes but the peppery spice remains. If anything, it intensifies.
Thoughts: I felt my sample needed a wee bit of time to settle down, which is fine but the beautiful pink hue to the whisky had me champing at the bit to taste it. The wine cask finish seems to have integrated really well, it’s made its mark without overpowering the malty, toffee character of GlenAllachie. Billy Walker and his team have rather nailed this one. It looks beautiful, it smells immense and, when that spice settles a little, it tastes wonderful. Cracking wee dram at a decent price.
12-Year-Old Sauternes Wine Cask Finish
Sauternes is a sweet white wine from the Graves section of Bordeaux. It is made from sémillon, sauvignon blanc and and muscadelle grapes.
The GlenAllachie Sauternes Cask Finish retails for £60.99. The whisky was finished in medium-toasted French oak casks that previously held Sauternes.
Smell: The nose has a pleasant malty note that underpins the sweet white wine character. There’s lots of fruit, of course. Grapes, lemon, lime. Nice toffee note and plenty of baking spices. There’s confectionery too. Barley sugars and chocolate limes.
Taste: Vanilla and caramel with some spice right on the arrival. Freshly baked bread. Cinnamon and ginger. Honey. Apple. Lime. Apricot. Orange marmalade. Butterscotch. Toffee. Touch of oak on the finish.
Thoughts: Sauternes won’t overpower a whisky the way some red wines can but it certainly adds another dimension to this drop. There’s a pleasant balance between the fruit and butterscotch notes and the spice makes for a gently warming sip. A solid offering. Though, for my money, the Grattamacco is the more exciting purchase, especially as it appears to be priced slightly cheaper.
13-year-old Rioja Wine Cask Finish
Rioja is a wine region in Spain with denominacion de origen calificada, the highest category in Spanish wine regulation. Rioja wine is made from grapes grown in La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque province of Alava.
The GlenAllachie Rioja Finish retails for £63.99. It received a secondary maturation in medium-toasted Spanish oak casks.
Smell: Lots of red wine notes: cherry and plum, in particular. New leather. As with the two previous drams, there’s that baking spice note. There’s also toffee, dark chocolate and a touch of pepper.
Taste: Plum, cherry, red berries. Big wine arrival followed by some chilli spice on the middle of the tongue. Tannic red wine finish. With water added a little bit of apple and pear came through. Vanilla and honey, too.
Thoughts: Rightly or wrongly, I think of Rioja as quite a big wine and wondered if it might overpower the whisky a little. I do feel that of the three drams, this is the most active finish but I don’t think it’s gone too far. Certainly when drank neat, the wine dominates but a splash of water balanced things out a little and some more of the GlenAllachie spirit character came through. It’s still very much a wine-led whisky though. If that appeals to you, I suspect you’ll love this.
If the whiskies reviewed in this article have caught your eye, you can buy them online from Craft56º
Buy the Grattamacco Cask Finish here
Buy the Sauternes Cask Finish here
Buy the Rioja Cask Finish here
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For more on GlenAllachie visit here.