What a playground GlenAllachie has proven to be for its master distiller, Billy Walker. He’s established a strong core range, but has also tinkered with so many different cask types. The GlenAllachie Virgin Oak Series is one such example. Batch 3, released earlier this year, includes single malts with a Hungarian, Scottish and Spanish Virgin Oak Finish.
For Batch 3 of the GlenAllachie Virgin Oak Series, the whiskies initially matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels. They then underwent additional wood management for around 18 months, which is how Walker generally refers to what you and I would call a finish. You’ll find some more details on each release below.
GlenAllachie 7 Years Hungarian Virgin Oak Finish (48%, OB, 2023)
Billy Walker’s search for something unusual led him to the mountains of northeast Hungary to the Zemplén forest. The soil is rocky and vulcanic, the climate colder and the altitude higher. As a result, the trees in this region grow slowly, giving the oak a tight grain, which is desirable for ageing spirit. The barrels of Hungarian Virgin Oak (Quercus Petraea) were toasted and charred to a medium level.
Nose: Touches of milk chocolate with a hint of Werther’s Original, gentle notes of cherries and a whiff of vanilla custard. Just a sprinkle of lemon zest too, as well as a light dusting of baking spices. Taste: The virgin casks seem more noticeable. Creamy with with a hint of damp oak, some praline chocolates, cinnamon and cigar boxes, yet also gentle spices, Granny Smiths, and a few drops of caramel. Finish: Medium length. Somewhat jammy, figs, and brown sugar.
Eminently drinkable, this GlenAllachie 7 Years Hungarian Virgin Oak Finish convinces from the start. The creamy mouthfeel works, along with intriguing sweet, fruity and even some earthy elements.
GlenAllachie 8 Years Scottish Virgin Oak Finish (48%, OB, 2023)
Scottish oak grows in forests along the Atlantic coast of Scotland. It is seldomly used for whisky maturation (pioneered by Gregg Glass), because it is not only rare and costly, but also incredibly challenging to work with at all stages of production. Prior to being filled with GlenAllachie the Scottish oak was air dried for 36 months before being toasted and charred to a medium level.
Nose: Opening up on hints of sultanas, alongside golden syrup, a touch of porridge, and a gentle grassy and/or farmy edge. Plenty of butterscotch too, bright citrus and even some Scottish tablet. Taste: Mouthfeel is relatively thin. It’s certainly in the realm of cloves, nutmeg, and white pepper. More oak spices than the Hungarian oak release. Slightly bitter at times, but also somewhat herbacious, and touches of honey and butterscotch. Finish: Medium length. Subtle tannins. Lingering oak spices, a touch of cocoa powder and some sandalwood.
The virgin oak is fairly present. Somewhat dry at times. Markedly different then the Hungarian oak, but not in the way I’d like to see. Especially lacking in the mouthfeel department.
GlenAllachie 10 Years Spanish Virgin Oak Finish (48%, OB, 2023)
Sometimes Spanish Oak is viewed as synonymous with sherry casks, even though many sherry casks aren’t made from this type of oak. In this case, we’re talking about actual Virgin Spanish Oak (Quercus Robur), sourced from the regions of Galicia and Asturias. The oak was air dried for around for around 18 months and toasted and charred to a medium level.
Nose: Warming baking spices, gentle notes of leather and just a touch of teak wood, but also toffee, dark caramel, and candied oranges. Also just a hint of furniture polish. Rather complex. Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. Arrives on dark spices, light tannins and molasses, but also cigar boxes, dark chocolate and crème caramel. Cinnamon and speculoos too, as well as just a touch of fennel and ginger. Truly enjoyable. Everything seems nicely integrated. Finish: Medium length. Gentle herbs with warming spices and baked bananas.
My favourite of the bunch. This is more of a winter warmer almost. The Spanish oak is very present without it becoming overwhelmingly tannic, bitter or spicy.