Note: this is second in a series of 3 single-cask reviews
I have to admit, before being presented this bottle (a gift, due to a long incumbency with my company), I had not heard of GlenAllachie. This is despite having visited its locale (Aberlour, Speyside) when I was in Scotland. We had actually walked halfway there (to Linn Falls) along the burn; what a missed opportunity! GlenAllachie is a fairly new distillery, being founded in 1967, changing hands a couple times, most recently by a private company which re-opened it in 2017. With but two wash and two spirit stills, it is a modest operation, producing about 4M liters a year. That compares well to Aberlour just down hill at about 3.5M liters a year.
The spirit under consideration today is their single cask ‘sherry bomb’ of 15 years maturity, and I am quite excited about it. It is bottled with a cask strength of 59.1% ABV and of course no chill filtering or added colors, as befits a special release. I like to have a comparison dram, and fortunately I still have some of the 14-year-old Balvenie I valinched from a sherry cask during our visit there.
The sturdy GlenAllachie carton announces that this spirit is “Deployment 2 Specially selected by the sherrybomb whisky appreciation society.” The age of 15 years and the cask number (4786) are printed, bottle number hand written. Although they only produced 295 bottles from said cask my bottle number is a cryptic ‘032 | 680.’ Inside one finds the classically stout bottle and the somewhat Flintstones-style script of the GlenAllachie name on the label. The style is fetching, and gives the whisky a lighthearted air.
In the bottle…I really wish I had some Aberlour A’Bunadh to compare it to because this stuff is dark—dark amber with lots of ruby; true dragon’s blood, like the A’Bunadh. Sadly the nearest bottle of the Aberlour is a 2 hr drive away. Still, my personally-extracted Balvenie is no slouch, that lay for 14 years in a sherry butt (photos coming in next blog entry where I cover that dram). They both look like serious whiskies, let’s get to the flavor.
The label of the GlenAllachie says natural color.I can believe that, there is a lot of flavor here—you can almost bite it. Just pouring releases a great waft of sherry, dried cherries and apricots, fresh-baked bread, all backed by a hint of granite. That was one well-seasoned sherry cask. I could dig in most aggressively before any alcohol sting made me back off. In comparison, the Balvenie has a lighter body, equal amounts oak and sherry, is less bready and sweeter.
On the palate at 59.1% ABV, the GlenAllachie has a lot of effervescent zing at first but also a remarkably thick blanket of artisanal, single-source dark chocolate, cherry liqueur and orange zest, fading into liquorice with tannins offering a hint of walnut. Considering the ABV, the GlenAllachie is amazingly kind to the throat. Also, where most whiskies have a sweet/bitter balance that play out, often unevenly, this dram tightly binds the two tightly. It’s a harmonious palate and finish, and one you will not forget. You can guess why the malt master picked this barrel. N.B., do not bother adding water or ice. Dilution reduces the impact of that thick chocolate and although the finish is as nice, I think you lose some of the magic with the loss of intensity.
The Balvenie at 63% strength also has a huge impact and a lot of flavor, but with a medicinal quality rather than the luxury of the GlenAllachie. I suspect it was a cask that did not pass muster with the malt master; it has character, and flavor, and I’ll say more about it in the next post. But it does not have the magic of the GlenAllachie
GlenAllachie Single Cask Single Malt Scotch whisky, 59.1% ABV
Nose: Sherry, dried cherries and apricots, fresh bread, modest minerals.
Palate: Effervescent zing at first, quickly followed by rich mouthfeel and a wide swath of artisanal dark chocolate and cherry liqueur.
Finish: Long. All that chocolate fading into log, languorous liquorice, balanced in its modest sweetness by walnut.
Bottom Line: I have no idea what my awesome boss paid for this dram (and I bet he did it out of his own wallet). This is an import bottle (700ml, as sold in the UK) so I bet it was precious. All I can say is, if you are looking for a bottle of whisky to amaze your friends and confound your enemies, this is it. Recommended, if someone is dropping helicopter money on you!