I’ve been following GlenAllachie closely ever since Billy Walker and his business partners acquired the distillery. I visited in early 2018, a few months before the core range was launched. I wrote about them for Scotchwhisky.com at the time. Returned during Spirit of Speyside in 2019. And just a few weeks ago, I interviewed Billy Walker a second time, now for Distiller (they’ve some great content on their blog).
In between I’ve tasted many of their releases, from the core range to single casks and the first batch of wood finishes, most of which I found satisfying. So far though, the influence of master blender Billy Walker has had its limitations. I’m not saying that to diminish his skill and experience and overall industry legend-ness. What I mean is that every drop of GlenAllachie released under Walker’s reign has been distilled by the previous owner.
In effect it’s been all about the wood since Walker & co took over. After all, that’s the only way to put a stamp on someone else’s distillate. And I’m not denying the importance of wood. But like Walker, I understand there are other parts of production that are important to flavour development, not least of which the fermentation stage. That’s why he extended GlenAllachie’s fermentation to between 140 and 180 hours. That’s almost three times as much as before.
This is going to impact GlenAllachie’s new make spirit and future whisky greatly. But it’ll take some (or a lot) of time before we reap the benefits of this more relaxed approach. So in the mean time, I’ll simply have to enjoy Walker’s advanced understanding of oak maturation and cask wizardry, which brings us back to today’s reviews.
This second batch of GlenAllachie’s Wood Finishes has been available in some markets and will be released soon in others. The distillery is marking the occasion with a live tasting on Facebook on Thursday 7th May (8pm CEST). Billy Walker will be taking you through the three whiskies below and undoubtedly be able to offer you much more insight into these bottlings than I can. So be sure to join.
For now, these are my notes…
GlenAllachie 9 Years Rye Wood Finish (48%, OB, 2020)
Nose: A touch of lemon yoghurt, but also very buttery, some rum raisins and a fair amount of honey. Finally a whiff of orange and some wood shavings. Taste: Hello spices! Is this all the result from the rye wood? Plenty of pepper, some ginger and a bit of cardamom, but then it becomes sweeter and more in line with the nose. A touch of orange peel too. Finish: A spicy sweetness. Pepper and honey. Medium in length.
GlenAllachie 11 Years Port Wood Finish (48%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Tinned peaches with a good amount of cinnamon, but also some burlap, rose water and elderflower. Finally a touch of cocoa. Fresher than expected. Taste: Super creamy and rather well-balanced. Some soft spices are lifted by strawberries, raspberries, cherry syrup and a whisper of cocoa powder. Finish: A wave of berries with a touch of rose petals.
GlenAllachie 11 Years Moscatel Wood Finish (48%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Some nectarine, tinned pineapple and coconut water with a whiff of honey, but also sweet pastries and warming spices. Just a whisper of grapefruit. Taste: Barely noticeable on the nose, the grapefruit shines on the palate. There’s lemon zest, honey and an assortment of spices as well. Finish: Soft spices and bright fruits with a touch of brown sugar.
Compared to last year’s Wood Finish batch, the higher level of integration stands out. It makes sense, because Billy Walker is more familiar with GlenAllachie and presumably the whisky has had more time in its finishing vessel.
I’m equally fond of the Port Wood Finish and the Moscatel Wood Finish. One is a little brighter while the other a tad more rich and intense, but either has a level of sweetness that I’m very comfortable with.
Objectively (is there such a thing?) the Rye Wood Finish is good whisky, even though it is not exactly my cup of tea. Although the nose was civilised and gentle, the palate was a little to spicy for my taste.