This has been a long time coming, but they are finally here. Meikle Tòir is the first-ever range of peated Speyside whiskies from GlenAllachie. The series includes four whiskies – The Original One, The Chinquapin One, The Sherry One and The Turbo.
Producing peated whisky has always been part of master distiller Billy Walker’s plans. In 2018, not long after GlenAllachie was acquired by Walker and his partners, I visited the distillery and interviewed him as well as operations manager Richard Beattie. At the time, GlenAllachie had never been used to produce peated spirit, but the twosome couldn’t wait to get started.
Beattie told me, “It’ll be really interesting to see how peat goes through the production process, and what the phenol levels are once the spirit comes out. Again, it’s about learning the distillery and tweaking it and getting the absolutely best out of it, and then marrying it with the wood.”
Walker added, “There’s so much you can do with peated spirit. It can take big wood, it can take seriously big wood, if it’s any good. But it’ll take four or five years before we’ll release any peated whisky.”
And that’s where we are now. Initially Walker had planned for peated whisky to represent as much as 20% of the entire production. But that hasn’t happened entirely, as becomes clear in a video on YouTube where Walker and assistent blender Ronan Currie present the new Meikle Tòir range.
One of the first things Walker did after acquiring GlenAllachie, was to slow production down. The distillery has a maximum capacity of around 4 million litres per annum, but currently distills 1 million litres. (Which is very much on purpose.) Initially, just 65,000 litres of peated whisky was produced each year, but that number currently sits at 100,000 litres, which is where Walker expects it to stay.
What’s more, ever since Walker took over, GlenAllachie has employed fermentations of 160 hours on average. For the uninitiated, that’s very long. The kind of stuff you generally don’t see at larger distilleries. This long-fermented, new style GlenAllachie was released only once before, so the new Meikle Tòir range gives us insights we’ve rarely had.
Before moving on to the tasting notes, here’s a complete overview of the entire Meikle Tòir range, including the cask breakdown and PPM levels. Seeing as the spirit PPM levels are pretty high, I figured they referred to the measurement of the new make spirit right after distillation. But I was assured that’s not the case. The measurements were taken from the mature 5-year-old whisky.
The Original: matured in 1st Fill Bourbon, Rye and American virgin oak casks, with a spirit PPM level of 35.
The Sherry One: initially aged in American oak, followed by PX and Oloroso Sherry puncheons for three years. A spirit PPM level of 35.
The Chinquapin One: initial maturation in American oak, before Chinquapin virgin oak barrels for a further three years. A spirit PPM level of 35
The Turbo: small-batch annual release capturing the spirit cut with the highest phenol content. The whisky clocks in at 71 PPM and was aged in American virgin oak and Sherry casks.
Meikle Tòir 5 Years – The Original One (50%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Loaded upfront with butterscotch, subtle honey notes and a tinge of sauerkraut, as well as plaster, shaved oak and mustard seeds. The heathery smoke is rather delicate for the most part. There’s also a whisper of caffè mocha. Taste: Good mouthfeel, decent oiliness. The peat is warming, slightly ashy at times. Hints of smouldering embers, bonfires and golden syrup. There’s a touch of honeyed breakfast cereals as well, alongside a bit of draff and cinnamon toast. Finish: Long. Hints of gingerbread, almonds and green peat.
There’s a sweetness to The Original that works well with the rather elegant peat. It might just be the combination of long fermentations and Walker’s wood wizardry that elevates this to a more mature level than many other young peaters.
Meikle Tòir 5 Years – The Chinquapin One (48%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Hints of teak furniture, a sliver of putty, and sandalwood, but also clearly some smouldering embers and wood smoke. There’s a touch of orange peel alongside sweeter notes of fudge and golden syrup. And nutmeg too. Taste: Mouthfeel is similarly oily. Well done. Slivers of coffee grounds, some liquorice, and even fennel. Oak spices are rather present (ginger), with wood smoke weaving in and out. Smoked barley husks, tree bark and wood smoke. Finish: Medium to long. Burnt toast, charcoal and cereals.
Not as warming and enveloping as The Original, the Chinquapin oak takes over ever so slightly here. Not to the point of no return, but I’m also not sure it’s an improvement.
Meikle Tòir 5 Years – The Sherry One (48%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Hints of sandalwood, slightly tart blackcurrants, butterscotch and cigar tobacco. There’s also a good amount of orange marmalade, cinnamon, touches of sugared almonds and even a slight farminess. And of course, there’s smoke here too. Lighter smoke. Heathery again. But it speaks volumes that I only know think to mention the smoke. Taste: Similar mouthfeel. A sweet, fruity arrival. Dates, plums, figs and the like. A flurry of warming wood smoke, some nougat, touches of mocha, and finally some gentle wood spices. Finish: Long. A touch of burnt caramel, star anise and green smoke.
It’s that warming, soothing smoke acting as a through line for all these whiskies so far. The Sherry One is enhanced by the ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximénez puncheons. Punching above its weight.
Meikle Tòir 5 Years – The Turbo (50%, OB, 2023)
Nose: Hints of shoe polish and leather alongside cigar boxes, orange peels and chocolate, but also hazelnuts, roasted peanuts and a sliver of fennel. There’s an ensuing sweetness with Demerara sugar, dark honey and crème de cassis. The peat smoke is well-balanced and integrated. Taste: There’s sweetness, wood smoke, spices and fruits. That’s the gist of it. They arrive all at once, and then slowly develop. Hints of charred oak, a good amount of honey, some chocolate truffles, cracked black peppercorns, a hint of ristretto, dried fruits. Pretty spot on. Finish: Long. Hints of coffee, charred beef, wood smoke and liquorice.
The Turbo turns the volume up. And not because it is ever so more smoky, because it's not necessarily. There just seems to be more of everything.