Firstly, thank you to whomever gave me this sample of the Glenallachie 15 year old. The passing of time has eroded my memory, and I’m only left with the prospect of venturing into the circus world of Billy Walker once again, minus the catalyst identity.
What a world this truly is. Armed with a sizable war chest after selling the trio of distilleries to Brown-Forman, Billy and his team picked Glenallachie. Of all the distilleries on Speyside, and even within the Chivas arsenal—Glenllachie, really? Okay, GlenAllachie, as it is now known. An interesting choice, unquestionably, and we won’t see why, until the distillery is able to bottle liquid distilled during the regime of the new owners. In the meantime, we have the Chivas stock that is being shipped out in all sorts of guises. For a distillery that was not seen much previously, it now has more wares than the Dallas Cowboys. You now can have the core age statements, single cask releases and much more besides. More GlenAllachie than Glenfiddich, it feels at times—all wrapped up in that terrible branding!
But I’m not Mark, who loves to talk about brands and delving into the marketing dark arts to sell you that liquid dream. For me, it all comes down to the contents and price point: you could even argue that the pricing has been discounted because of that branding, or at least that’s the way I like to think of it. A brown paper bag would be more appropriate and fitting with the Flintstone theme, but of more interest is the rising engagement with this distillery from numerous enthusiasts. Some might arguably be swept away on a torrent of Billy Walker fandom, and I expect some truly are eager to partake in his next project and vision.
Others might follow the video proclamations of Ralfy, who picked out the GlenAllachie 12-year-old as his whisky of the year. I like the man, having met him, as well as his candid banter. I chuckled reading Taylor’s recent Aberlour Alba article, where the brand ambassador highlighted being fifth in such a best of list—as if this carries any weight? Quite often, such lists are whiskies to avoid, or to treat with caution depending on the source, as advertising orders are placed and secret handshakes are deployed on the back of their concoction.
In Ralfy’s case, his selection and independence does matter to many onlookers, and I do appreciate this. The GlenAllachie 12 that I recall wasn’t anything to celebrate other than being solid, widely available and affordable, which in turn makes it a refreshing choice. The 2019 selection in the Deanston 12 feels more warranted and deserved. We are all entitled to our opinions, and our avoidance of such lists and selections here on MALT will continue. I’d encourage you to go find your whisky of 2019 (or any year) by opening, sharing and exploring with friends and strangers. Talk about whiskies as much as possible and find others that enjoy a similar style or sense of adventure. Today, the only thing that trumps the marketing nonsense around whisky is the sheer number of bottles being released. We cannot taste them all, and neither can you. My whisky of any year is always the next one, armed with a sense of optimism and discovery.
This 15-year-old is formed on the same basis as its younger, awarded sibling. Comprised from a variety of cask types, it aims to showcase the sizable inventory at the distillery and the blending skill of the newly-installed team. The concept, by chance, could underline the untapped potential that resides at many distilleries across Scotland. Of course, if you have engaged in the independent bottling scene once in a while, you’ll know that GlenAllachie is capable of a surprise. I do recall a couple of 25-year olds from Cadenhead’s in recent times that underlined the promise and reward of patience. I don’t doubt GlenAllachie can make a decent spirit, but until recent times, it was shipped off for its master’s blenders, and any single malt spotlight was positioned nicely over the fakery of Strathisla…
That distillery looks the part but is an absolute stinker based on its current offerings. A shame, it really is, as a wonderful history and stylish exterior deserve a better product. It is what it is. Meanwhile, let’s avoid being dazzled by the Strathisla spotlights and venture into the realm of Glenallachie—yabba dabba doo!
This GlenAllachie is very much a modern construct in terms of the cask engineering to fashion the final product. A combination of puncheons and hogsheads that previously held Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry have been utilised to finish the maturing whisky. This is then bottled at 46% strength and you can expect to pay £59.95 from Master of Malt, or exactly the same price via the Whisky Exchange.
Glenallachie 15 year old – review
On the nose: rhubarb, cranberry and strawberries. Dried tobacco, hoisin sauce, bubble-gum and a touch of a metallic characteristic. Caramel, red apples and pencil shavings round off the experience. Water reveals chocolate, uncooked pastry and a jammy quality.
In the mouth: very sweet, and has that modern thrust and texture of a sherry cask finish. Dried fruits, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries. A drying finish with elements of tobacco. Water unlocks a little rubber and more sweetness.
I found this to be very by the numbers. Even blind, you would be able to pick out the aggressive sherry finish and potential use of smaller casks. This GlenAllachie is drinkable and affordable, but these are lukewarm plaudits in reality. The whisky has been twisted and funnelled into a direction that might not really suit its original vibrancy.
Ultimately, this is a product of today’s market: the need to offer colour and the influence of a different cask type. Reminiscent of several SMWS releases—the home of short finishing—this, in reality, could be from several distilleries. All you’re left with is the taste of the wood finish. What I wanted was a bit of GlenAllachie, but given the Walker track record at other distilleries and penchant for this type of cask foreplay, I’m not hugely surprised.
There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement. Photograph kindly provided by the Whisky Exchange.