New Whiskies

Batch 142: GlenAllachie Single Casks

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Batch 142: GlenAllachie single casks

We focus on only one distillery this week as Dave Broom tastes his way through the six-strong single cask single malt releases from the ‘new’ GlenAllachie. The capitalised ‘A’ in the middle of the name gives a clue to the distillery’s new owner: Billy Walker, previously of BenRiach (and indeed GlenDronach).

Walker bought the distillery from Chivas Brothers last year and, in doing so, set about transforming GlenAllachie from a little-known distillery producing fillings for blends such as Passport and 100 Pipers, into a quality-oriented single malt in its own right.

A core range is set to launch in June but, while we wait for that, there is this initial release of six single cask single malts – spanning the years 1978 to 1991, with two each from 1989 and 1990 in the middle.

Are they any good? The simple answer is yes, but you’ll have to read Broom’s detailed notes for the full story on six whiskies that encompass quite a range of flavours and styles. Broom’s conclusion: ‘A fascinating journey,’ he says. ‘I reckon that Billy Walker’s done it again.’

This week’s accompanying Spotify playlist uses a single artist to provide the musical backdrop to this single distillery batch. Click on the links in ‘Right Place, Right Time’ for the soundtrack.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • GlenAllachie 1991, 26 Years Old, Cask #100285

    GlenAllachie 1991, 26 Years Old, Cask #100285
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    Slightly sharp with some nose burn, then dry grass and, in time, the sweetness of flapjack and the start of a softer, richer, dark fruitiness accompanied by fresh-sawn wood. Water brings out a more juicy, citric edge, along with more overt cask elements; soft runny caramel, a touch of nutty cereal and fresh-ploughed field.

    Palate

    While there’s still some heat, there’s also a soft butterscotch/tablet element which adds flavour but, more significantly, texture, which rounds off the palate. Everything seems light and fresh aromatically speaking but with this smoothed solidity and, while things do dry a little in the centre, everything is resolved on the end where there’s this fruity/floral thing going on. It does need water, which gives all of these elements another boost – and better cohesion. Now there’s blue fruit fragrance, especially on the back palate and, in time, hints of char.

    Finish

    Vanilla, nuts, then a bright, almost effervescent spiciness.

    Conclusion

    From a hoggie, this is a fresh and easy-going introduction to a little-known distillery.

    Right place, right time

    One distillery, so one artist. Gentle, but with heft. It has to be John Martyn. Or, in this case, John The Baptist

    GlenAllachie 1990, 27 Years Old, Cask #2515

    GlenAllachie 1990, 27 Years Old, Cask #2515
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    44.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Although this is from a butt, there is a grassy element which nods politely towards the 1991 (there’s a touch of cow gum as well). As well as having plumped-up dried fruits, there’s a freshness which comes across as a mix of Moscato grapes and lemon zest. Water brings out some bakery notes, a chalk dust element and more fruit.

    Palate

    A floury start and a mellow delivery, with slightly peachy fruits mixing with meadow hay and the sensation of chaff and pollen in the summer haze. There’s some orange peel in the mid-palate before it starts to deepen into hazelnut chocolate and sultana. I’d leave it neat as there’s no real heat, and it steadily develops a soft, chewy, fruity subtlety.

    Finish

    Red liquorice.

    Conclusion

    A mix of the dry, the bright and the rich. A mid-point. The lower strength adds a mellowness.

    Right place, right time

    Chilled and relaxed. One World.

    GlenAllachie 1990, 27 Years Old, Cask #2517

    GlenAllachie 1990, 27 Years Old, Cask #2517
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    54.6%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Freshly-made gingerbread with raisin, prune and chocolate that, like #2515, also throws out ripe fruits and spice, in this case blueberry juice and clove, then comes bread-and-butter pudding (with the bread element the key). Becomes more obviously oxidised with water, with some yeastiness, barley sugar sweets (forgotten in the pocket) and, this being GlenAllachie, an estery lift of fresh banana and pineapple.

    Palate

    A very soft, if concentrated, start with a balanced Sherry character and an almost smoky effect mid-palate, where there’s some light tannins and then, according to form, out come those blue and black fruits (now mostly dried) on the back palate with added chocolate. Water introduces a freshness to balance this power, as well as filling out the mid-palate.

    Finish

    Rich, sweet fruit and clove on the finish.

    Conclusion

    Another butt, but with more weight and richness. You begin to see themes emerge and how time and cask play variations on those.

    Right place, right time

    This Goes Down Easy.

    GlenAllachie 1989, 28 Years Old, Cask #986

    GlenAllachie 1989, 28 Years Old, Cask #986
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Rumbustious Sherry cask character, which mixes those blue fruits with some bodega funkiness: that lovely (well, I love it) cheese rind element, old Serrano ham with fruit, leather, prune and hints of nuttiness, which comes across as chestnut purée. Big, certainly, but balanced with Sherry-soaked wood and, with water, Christmas cake, bruised plum, sultana and apple.

    Palate

    Broad and heavily Sherried, this is the weightiest so far, with a mix of Sherry, inky newsprint and coffee grounds on the tip of the tongue, some coal-like dustiness and liquorice in the middle, then those dark, aromatic plums and blueberries on the end. Rich and layered, it holds water well, bringing out Bourbon biscuits, resin and a slight oiliness before the estery brightness (grilled pineapple) adds lift. Flirts with sulphur.

    Finish

    Dried peel and dark fruits.

    Conclusion

    One for the Sherry lovers.

    Right place, right time

    Deep and powerful. I’d Rather be the Devil.

    GlenAllachie 1989, 28 Years Old, Cask #2587

    GlenAllachie 1989, 28 Years Old, Cask #2587
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    45.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Initially, this is softer, slightly shyer than #986 (which might be partly down to the lower strength). There’s a shared sultana element, but more overt citrus elements, while the fruitiness moves towards pomegranate molasses and scented candles. It steadily grows in assurance, becoming a polished mix of dried orchard fruit, macadamia, orange peel.

    Palate

    A very soft start, with a gentle mid-palate. There’s great flow and a sense of a softening maturity, with waxy fruit that expands with water, which adds in cocoa powder, subtle tannins, then cherry and cinnamon tea, and some raisin.

    Finish

    Drying initially, then the fruits.

    Conclusion

    You need to work a little at this one, but it is rewarding.

    Right place, right time

    A soft, slow builder once you get your head around it. As warm and fuzzy as a Big Muff.

    GlenAllachie 1978, 39 Years Old, Cask #10296

    GlenAllachie 1978, 39 Years Old, Cask #10296
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Speyside
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Now here’s odd. It opens with this note which I sometimes get with an old whisky of the air inside an empty cupboard, a ghostly aroma of the smell of time lost. Then, like many of its kind, it begins to fill in. There’s some cold Darjeeling tea, then aromatic woods, resin, some sweet, raisined fruits, a little beeswax and then a needling, bone-dry oloroso element which will thrill true Sherry lovers. In time you pick out spent cigar, rum-and-raisin, and chocolate. At its best neat.

    Palate

    Sweet, with a heavy concentration of fruit, but that light airiness is still evident even after all this time (and the attentions of a Sherry butt). The tannins are more grippy, but there’s some dried mint and oregano, then date and pruney richness.

    Finish

    Coffee grounds.

    Conclusion

    Everything eventually is concentrated into an essence. A fascinating journey. I reckon that Billy Walker’s done it again.

    Right place, right time

    That Billy Walker, He’s Got All the Whiskey.

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