Darach Whisky 24-year-old Allt-a-Bhainne

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Darach Whisky

The Darach Whisky Co. (not to be confused with the Inverness-based whisky-themed furniture company) is the brainchild of William Woodburn and Ross Frame. The idea of the pair working together was first discussed beside a swimming pool in Egypt in the early part of 2020.

William had previously served with the Scots Guards before starting a construction business while Ross served an apprenticeship as a plumber before creating a business of his own, in 2017. By 2020, however, both men felt that the time was right for a change.

Their original idea focused on a brand of cocktails. They established a company was and took some time to learn as much as possible about the alcohol business. They soon found themselves fascinated by the sheer number of interesting beverages being produced on their doorstep in Scotland and became particularly intrigued by Scotch whisky.

As it did for so many, the coronavirus pandemic delayed their plans and by the time things got moving again, the cocktail idea had been shelved. The company was now focussing 100% on Scotch whisky.

Their first release came on December 1st 2021. It was a single cask single malt, distilled at the lesser-known Allt-A-Bhainne distillery in Speyside and matured for an impressive 24 years.

Allt-A-Bhainne

The distillery was founded in 1975 by Chivas Brothers in order to provide filler for their blends.

The Allt-A-Bhainne distillery stands near the heart of Speyside, close to the famous distilling hub that is Dufftown. The name comes from the distillery’s water source – allt ‘a bhainne is Gaelic for “the milk burn”.

Until recently, single malt bottlings of Allt-A-Bhainne have been rare. However, in 2018, Chivas launched a peated version, bottled at 40%. It isn’t a dram I’ve tried but releasing a peated Speyside was certainly an interesting road to go down. Like many blend-fodder distilleries, however, the best way to experience Allt-A-Bhainne’s malt has been through independent bottlers.

The Whisky

*Full disclosure: I was sent the whisky featured in this review, free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.

Bottled un-chill-filtered, at natural colour and a cask strength of 46.6%. Only 171 bottles available.

Smell: There’s a blast of fresh fruit before some wood varnish comes through. Runny honey. Then things got a little complicated with a slightly off-putting metallic paint-like note that I struggled to get past. A touch chemically. I found it quite an unpleasant note. Beyond that, there was some nutty character, some olive oil and even a little bit malt. It’s always nice when you can still pick up a little bit of the spirit character after such a long time in cask.

Interestingly, I saved some of the sample for later – I always like to taste a dram on two separate occasions before I publish a review so no matter how small the sample I try to keep some back. When I revisited several days later I found the chemically / metallic note had faded. In its place was something more akin to slightly burnt toast. There was still a bit of wood resin / varnish but nothing like the unpleasantness of before. Possibly the sample just needed a bit of air. Maybe this is a whisky best given time in the glass before enjoying. In any case, it rewarded my patience.

Taste: Fortunately there was no such experience on the palate. First there was breakfast cereal with lots of honey and vanilla. Caramel. Walnut. Then a nice gentle helping of some woody spice that pointed to its many years interacting with oak.

Thoughts: I enjoyed sipping on this one, especially after the problems with the nose resolved themselves. In terms of flavour, the whisky shows pretty much what you’d expect from an older Speyside. You’ve got the usual orchard fruits, backed with the subtle character of refill oak and a little bit of warming, tingly spice. Nothing particularly surprising but a decent example of its kind. A pleasant sipper with a little bit of depth – the subtle indication of age you get from older refill casks.

Value for money: £240 is a big old whopping sum but in the current market I don’t think it’s extreme for a 24-year-old single cask, single malt. I always try to check out the competition with such bottlings and a quick search on Whisky Exchange brought up 20 and 21-year-old versions of Allt-A-Bhainne that were priced between £150 – £200. I think £240 for this 24-year-old seems pretty consistent with that.

I’m not sure I liked it enough to pay that kind of money but that might be personal preference as much as anything. If you generally go for older Speysides, this may well tick a few boxes for you.

It’s always exciting when new bottlers come on to the scene. I believe Darach have followed this release with a 13-year-old malt from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. That’s a couple of good age statements to launch with and it will be fascinating to see how they develop going forward. Best of luck, to all involved!

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For more information on Darach Whisky visit here

To buy their 24-year-old Allt-A-Bhainne visit here

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