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.
Note: this is first in a series of 3 single-cask reviews. Skip to Review 105 for a comparison to a ‘guest cask’ from The Balvenie.
I like that the William Grant organization is a family firm and that they maintain the full breadth of skills in whisky-making at The Balvenie. They also give an excellent distillery tour. So when I spotted this bottle of Single Barrel, First Fill (SBFF) in the local shop, not long after a payday, I plunked down a C-note. Single cask is always a risk, as the malt master has no leeway in mixing in anything else to fill holes in a spirit’s flavor profile or to dilute a flavor that’s over the top. But I have very nice memories, and some remaining samples, of spirits valinched from casks during our tour. There were some odd ones!
There is always a story, some better than others. This one is prosaic enough: someone bought The Sexton for my wife, as they heard she liked Irish whisky. (Long ago I’d introduced the good wife to Bushmills, which I had become attached to after reading The Eagle has Landed even longer ago. In that book, the Irish protagonist, Devlin, favored that whisky.) We usually have Bushmills in house so I’ll use that as the comparison dram.
Once again one of my friends comes through with a bottle of something I have not tried and turns out a pleasant surprise. This Glenlivet is a special edition presumably in the style of the original pre-licensed operation, but apart from that we don’t know a whole lot about what goes into it. It is 12-year, bottled at a hefty 48%, and not chill-filtered. While their website alludes to ‘smaller’ copper stills being used for the original illicit whisky, they don’t exactly say if this whisky is distilled any differently than the standard expression. Given the fact it is available across the U.S., which implies a large production run, I’m guessing they used their usual production stills for this. The ‘learn more’ button on the page above takes you to an ordering page which does have tasting notes but no more on the making of this dram.
Here it is, Whisky & Words #100. I have saved a good one for this, an old whisky, Laphroaig 25. Age does not improve everything (my joints for example) but it sure does magic to whisky. I have not had a lot of experience with really old whiskies: a Talisker 25 I ordered at a nice restaurant in Manhattan and a 34-year old valinched right from the cask at Balvenie are my benchmarks.
Those were very special whiskies and they made a deep impression on my palate. Other than those, I have tried a number of Scotches of moderate age, 15 to 18 years, and while those are quite good and show improvement over the garden variety 12, they did not have the magic of the multi-decade-aged spirits. That Talisker and the Balvenie cask belong in a different class of spirit.