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The Rebirth of GlenAllachie
GlenAllachie is a young distillery by Scottish standards. It was founded during the 1960s whisky boom and spent much of its life producing spirit for blended Scotch but the distillery has enjoyed something of a rejuvenation 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 new owners launched their version of the GlenAllachie single malt in 2018. Expressions included a 12-year-old and 10-year-old cask strength bottling. The range has since diversified further with the addition of an excellent 15-year-old.
In addition, a series of wood finishes and wine cask expressions have accompanied the core range. Below you will find some of my thoughts on three of their most recent releases.
*Full disclosure: These samples were sent to me free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.
Madeira Wood Finish
Madeira is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands, off the coast of Africa. Like other fortified wines, it is made using a distilled grape spirit. Unlike others, Madeira producers deliberately expose their wines to heat, either in a large container called an estufagem or by storing in oak casks held in attics where they can absorb the Sun’s rays. The practice comes from sailors of old, who noticed vast improvements in the wine after it had been transported in cask for several months.
The GlenAllachie Madeira Wood Finish is aged for 13 years and bottled at 48% alcohol by volume.
Smell: There’s quite a strong peachy note on the nose, followed by orange and milk chocolate. Lemon. Also caramel, hazelnut and a touch of oak.
Taste: Really interesting arrival. Full of zingy flavour. Honey. Orange, lemon and lime. Burnt caramel. Currants. Vanilla. Little touch of almond before a dry oaky finish. Good weight.
Thoughts: It’s certainly not the most subtle of finishes. In fact, the Madeira has well and truly taken control of things over that two year finishing period. That’s OK though because its big, bold character has produced a dram with lots of personality. In fairness, there’s also some subtle vanilla and peppery oak notes which I suspect come from the original refill cask, so there’s an element of balance there, too.
The real highlight for me, is the contrast between citrus and spice, that’s where this whisky really succeeds. At £65.95 it’s also relatively well priced. Maybe not in the most affordable category but also not ridiculous for a 13-year-old. It checks all the boxes. It has interesting and enticing aromas and satisfying, mouth-coating flavours.
Madeira finishes have become rather trendy in recent years. This is among the best examples I’ve come across.
Ruby Port Wood Finish
Ruby port is the most extensively produced type of port. After fermentation, the wine is stored in tanks made of concrete or stainless steel to prevent oxidative ageing and preserve its claret colour.
The GlenAllachie Ruby Port Wood Finish is aged for 12 years and bottled at 48%.
Smell: Straight away the nose is full of the red berry notes you’d expect from the port. Raspberry, cranberry, cherry… Blackcurrant, too. There’s also some maple syrup, a bit of charred oak and cinnamon. Old leather. Varnished wooden furniture.
Taste: Much like the nose, it arrives in a burst of sweet berry fruits but becomes increasingly tannic as it develops. Soon there’s coffee and dark chocolate with sultanas and cinnamon before the berries return for the finish with a wee blast of spice.
Thoughts: I enjoy a Ruby Port finish on a whisky, so this one was always going to appeal to me and the asking price of £62 is maybe even a little less than I was expecting. Kudos to GlenAllachie for that.
Like the Madeira Finish, the Ruby Port has integrated with the spirit well. Some finishes can seem powerful to begin with but evaporate when water is added and the dram exposed to time. Oftentimes what starts as a big, colourful whisky ends up as something rather pedestrian. Fortunately, that isn’t what happens here. Two years is a good length for a finish and the port has completed bonded with the spirit. Crucially, it doesn’t dominate so much that you may as well be drinking port but it sticks around throughout the whole sipping experience. A delicious dram from an in-form distillery.
PX Wood Finish
Pedro Ximenez is a white Spanish wine grape variety often used in the production of sherry. The grapes are dried in the sun to increase the concentration of sugars. Oxidative ageing increases the concentration of aromas and flavours. Pedro Ximenez is one of the sweetest wines in the world.
The GlenAllachie PX Wood Finish is aged for 11 years and bottled at 48% abv.
Smell: Quite a spicy nose… Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger all in there. Also maple syrup, prunes and some dark chocolate. Leather jackets.
Taste: Like the nose, there’s lots of oaky spice. There’s dark chocolate, coffee, a touch of charred oak and a bit of pepper followed by all the dried fruits notes you’d expect from a sherry finish. Underneath it all, there’s a touch of apple, some vanilla, a touch of malt and some pepper.
Thoughts: This wasn’t quite as insanely sweet as PX finishes can be. Indeed, the sherry was rather nicely balanced by the wood and spice notes. It’s not quite what I would describe as an outright sherry bomb, but that’s a good thing because that style can very easily become one-dimensional. Here, the distillery’s own unique character can still be found, if you give it some water and a bit of time. Indeed, across all three of these drams, it feels like GlenAllachie have got the finishes spot on. The finishing casks play a major role without completely swamping the malt. A price of £59.95 will also make this massively appealing to many people, I suspect.
As a fan of big, character malts, it’s quite hard to pick a favourite out of the three. I loved the mouthfeel of the Madeira finish, really appreciated the vibrant berries of the Ruby Port bottling and the depth of that PX finish was sublime. I’d be happy with any of them. I’d be even happier with all of them.
It’s great to see such boldly flavoured whisky coming from a distillery in Speyside. Because it’s funny, despite being the largest producing region by some considerable distance, Speyside still seems under-represented to me, in terms of higher strength, un-chill-filtered bottlings. In fact, at time of writing, I’m struggling of another Speysider that bottles at 46%, un-chill-filtered, as standard. That’s a really sad state of affairs to find ourselves in, in 2021.
So let’s hear it for GlenAllachie. The Saviour of Speyside!
For more on GlenAllachie visit here