Lets start this review with a question. If you were flush with a few million pounds what distillery would you realistically purchase? I bet there are a variety of answers from Malt’s combined readership of 17 just now. I’ll also wager that no one out there actually picked out Glenallachie distillery either. Except in real life, Billy Walker and his team did just that.
Glenallachie is a youthful distillery having been established in 1967 to support its masters blending requirements. It’s never really veered away from this straight line and was always a whisky that you would tick off during your exploration of producers. Rarely if ever, would anyone bat an eyelid after experiencing a Glenallachie and I’ve yet to hear a gushing appraisal about a scintillating whisky from this distillery. That’s not to say it’s not a capable host or hampered by brewers droop when it comes to delivering an uplifting whisky.
Even it’s history is a little drab with Invergordon Distillers taking over the reigns in 1985. Now this outfit was adept at filling casks with any old spirit and little focus on quality. This was particularly true of the cask management or in reality lack of. No matter how good your distillery character is in new make form, if you fill it into sub-standard casks then the end result will be below par. Distilleries such as Jura, Invergordon and Tullibardine eventually realised the error in such an approach, but in the case of Glenallachie the parent company didn’t care much for this relatively unknown Speyside outpost. Just 2 years after acquiring Glenallachie the distillery closed its doors and remained in limbo while the whisky world moved on. Things changed in 1989 when Pernod Ricard saw potential – or arguably convenience – with Glenallachie being near its vested nest egg of Speyside distilleries. Expanding the site, Glenallachie was back in business and being a servant to its master once again.
Was this a happy unison? It’s hard to say although like most corporate entities its the power of the spreadsheet that rules the roost and there’s no time for emotion. This transpired earlier this year when announcing the sale of Glenallachie the most benign of lines was swept into a tepid press release. Part of its strategy to focus on its priority spirits and wines brands and to adjust its industrial footprint to its needs. Complete and utter bollocks to quote my southern friends. I hope at least Billy Walker and Co actually negotiated a good price to conclude this deal and now the fun begins for us all. This relatively unknown and ignored distillery has become an intriguing prospect. Rumours of defections from GlenDronach staff to this new venture persist and whether true or not, we’ve heard some unhappy tales.
For around 50 years Glenallachie has just merely existed and for many whisky writers out there being benign is enough, but for us here at Malt its about pushing forward and challenging ourselves.
The captivating interest here is what Billy Walker and his team have planned. Effectively this distillery with a small profile amongst enthusiasts – mainly thanks to staunch independent bottlings – offers a blank canvas and little baggage. For years the team were bestowed with a gorgeous inventory of sherry delights at GlenDronach and whilst the terms of the deal with Pernod Ricard are confidential, I’ll wager once again that maturing stocks are not in the same league. The mystery continues to captivate many of us and in the years ahead we’ll have our answer, but for now we’re faced with this Gordon & MacPhail bottling from 2015. Distilled in 1999 with a strength of 46% this forms part of their solid Connoisseurs Choice and would set you back around £50.
Glenallachie 1999 Gordon & MacPhail – review
Colour: pine wood.
On the nose: green apples, vanilla and sour cream initially, it’s all very fresh and lively. Icing sugar and cotton sheets, almonds and some lemon sponge cake. Coconut towards the rear rounds off a classic Speyside set of aromas.
In the mouth: it’s all very crisp with those apples once again and digestive biscuits. Lemon peelings, a lime cordial with more of the coconut and the drying bitterness from the wood.
A very simplistic affair and whilst there isn’t anything wrong with such an experience it’s not a memory that will remain with you next time you’re scouring the whisky shelves for a purchase. A well made but very simple and average malt. Over to Billy Walker and his team for the next chapter starting with the revamped name as GlenAllachie.
My thanks to Michael at the Carnegie Whisky Cellars for the sample.