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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Glenallachie

Single cask Master of Malt exclusives have landed!

Just landed at MoM Towers, some bottles that you can’t find anywhere else. We have offerings from Caol Ila, Glenfarclas, Glenallachie and, heading over to America, Smooth Ambler. These are…

Just landed at MoM Towers, some bottles that you can’t find anywhere else. We have offerings from Caol Ila, Glenfarclas, Glenallachie and, heading over to America, Smooth Ambler. These are all single cask bottlings and did we mention they are Master of Malt-exclusives?

The thing that gets our buying team really excited is the chance to get hold of whisky that nobody else can and selling it to Master of Malt customers. They spend their lives hunting out rare casks that have that extra-special magic.

And now, just in time for Christmas, they’ve landed a quartet of splendid single cask bottlings: one from Islay, two from Speyside, and a bourbon from the US.

And they are all Master of Malt exclusives.

Caol Ila 9 Year Old (James Eadie)

In contrast to its neighbours, Bowmore and Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila keeps a low profile. It produces a lot of whisky but most of its production goes into blends like Johnnie Walker Black Label. Nevertheless, its Islay single malts are usually excellent and much-prized by independent bottlers.

This comes from independent bottler James Eadie, a recently-revived name from the 19th century. It was distilled in 2011 and aged in a re-charred hogshead. It was bottled in 2021 exclusively for Drinks by the Dram at cask strength, 57.6% ABV. Only 276 bottles are available.

How does it taste?

Oatcakes, seaweed and ocean breezes, with waxy green apples, butter crumpets, spicy peppercorn, caraway and anise.

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old 2009 (Drinks by the Dram)

GlenAllachie lies in Aberlour on the bank of the River Spey. It’s a relatively recent distillery, built in 1967, and in the past, most of its production went into blends. In 2017, however, it was bought by a consortium including ex-BenRiach MD Billy Walker, and the emphasis is now on single malts.

This 12-year-old was distilled in 2009 before ageing in an ex-bourbon cask. In 2018 it was racked into a single Oloroso sherry puncheon, before bottling in 2021 at cask strength for Drinks by the Dram. 359 bottles are available.

How does it taste?

If you love sherry, then you’re going to love this. Think rum and raisin, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and dark chocolate. 

Glenfarclas 1991 29 Year Old Family Cask

Glenfarclas is one of the few family-owned distilleries in Scotland. It’s been in the hands of the Grant family since the 19th century. It is also one of the last distilleries in Scotland to use direct-fired stills, and all its whiskies are aged the traditional way in ex-Oloroso casks in a dunnage warehouse.

Here’s a very special bottling. It was distilled in 1991 and spent 29 years in a single refill Oloroso sherry hogshead. It was bottled exclusively for Master of Malt at 55% ABV with only 213 bottles produced. 

How does it taste?

Dried fruit, raisins, apricots and orange peel on the nose with a whiff of furniture polish. Lively, spicy and tangy on the palate with creamy barley, gingerbread and nutty chocolate.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 5 Year Old Bourbon (Drinks by the Dram) 

West Virginia’s Smooth Ambler began in 2009 as a gin and vodka distillery, but founder John Little saw an opportunity when he came across casks of quality mature bourbon that nobody else wanted. Since then, Little has begun producing his own whiskey but still sells sourced spirits under the Old Scout label. 

This was distilled at the vast MGP distillery in Indiana, source of so much high-quality bourbon. The mash bill is 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley. Following ageing for five years it was bottled with minimal filtration at 59.6% ABV.

How does it taste?

Sweet, smooth and very spicy, you’ll find cinnamon gum, brown sugar, coffee, cracked black pepper, liquorice, and Crunchie Bars in here. 

These whiskies are available in very limited quantities, once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Glenfarclas 60 Year Old

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The Nightcap: 26 March

50-year-old whisky from Highland Park, a new distillery on Whisky Galore island and David Beckham. It’s all on The Nightcap: 26 March edition. Get stuck in!  A whole week has…

50-year-old whisky from Highland Park, a new distillery on Whisky Galore island and David Beckham. It’s all on The Nightcap: 26 March edition. Get stuck in! 

A whole week has passed since we last filled our Nightcapping sack full of stories. Which means we get to do it all again this week. You might think that at some point not enough interesting things will happen in this lovely industry of ours and we won’t have anything to write about. But we’ve never had to find out. Because people keep doing cool, interesting or baffling things, like rebuilding a demolished pub brick by brick or putting whisky in mulberry wood casks. And we salute them for doing so. It means we’ve got another cracker of a Nightcap to enjoy this week. So, what are you waiting for? Read on!

If you like winning stuff by doing very little then the MoM blog was the place for you this week as we launched a bottle lottery for a shiny new Macallan whisky and a #BagThisBundle competition with Botanist Islay Dry Gin. If you enjoy smoky blends with plenty of history, fiery zero ABV drinks or bargain vodka you’ll also love this week’s work. There was also room on our blog for plenty of debate with Ian Buxton considering the potential of a whisky bust that could be coming soon and Henry asking if the G&T is a cocktail. Lucy, meanwhile, did some digging into the history of Hennessy Cognac as Adam’s attention was taken by Irish independent bottling and the Curious Bartender popped by to give us some top tips for making cocktails at home.

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we take a look at the new 50-year-old whisky launched by Highland Park

The new dram certainly looks every bit as old and rare as it is

Highland Park launches 50-year-old whisky

Highland Park is flexing its considerable muscles this week by unveiling a new 50-Year-Old single malt. It’s just the third time a half-century whisky has been released in the distillery’s 223 year history, which should give you an idea of how significant this launch is. The 50 Year Old is the creation of a selection of nine refill casks laid down in 1968 that were married together in 2008 then re-racked into a handful of the finest first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks. Then, after a further 12 years of maturation, one of these limited casks was selected and married with a small quantity of the whisky from the 2016 release of 50 Year Old which in turn contained some whisky from the 2010 batch. Highland Park is describing this as a ‘solera’ as used in the sherry industry, which isn’t quite accurate, but certainly sounds colourful. Gordon Motion, Highland Park master whisky maker, described it as “spectacular”. He reveals the spirit has both the rich sherried flavours from its final first-fill cask maturation, as well as all the delicate fragrance and flavours driven by the original refill casks. The whisky comes in a hand-made walnut box courtesy of John Galvin and the design has all the hallmarks of the Norse heritage Highland Park likes to reference nowadays. Of course, all of this comes with a considerable price tag of £20,000, so it’s unlikely any of us will get to taste it. Still, there’s plenty of tasty Highland Park expressions to enjoy right here, which is a solid consolation. 

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we take a first look at a new distillery on Whisky Galore island

Yes it looks like every other computer-generated distillery design

Whisky Galore island getting its own whisky distillery

The island where author Sir Compton Mackenzie set his classic novel Whisky Galore is about to welcome its first-ever whisky distillery. The team behind the Isle of Barra Gin brand plans to create a new purpose-built whisky and gin distillery and visitor centre on Barra, where the original movie was filmed. The £5m project will serve as the new home to the existing 300-litre Barra gin still, ‘Ada’ and have a plant for bottling and bonded warehousing, a small café/bar and a retail area, all while creating at least 30 new local jobs. Whisky veteran Alan Winchester (of Glenlivet fame) has been brought on board to put his 40+ years of experience to good use, guiding Isle of Barra Gin founders Michael and Katie Morrison and helping to establish a flavour profile. The plan is for the site to be powered by renewable energy and for it to be built with sustainable materials, while a green travel plan that will limit the number of visitors driving to the site is also in development. Once completed, the distillery will be capable of producing over 300,000 bottles of single malt per year, with the firm planning to use spirit matured in a mix of ex-bourbon barrels, Cabernet Sauvignon casks and Oloroso sherry casks. The founders say the idea is to create a spirit that represents its island home and also reveals that ever since the launch of Isle of Barra Distillers, they’ve consistently been asked if they produce whisky because of the instant connection people make with the much-loved film and the book. If all goes well they should break ground in the middle of next year. Though you’ll have to wait a good while before it’s whisky galore on Barra.

Method and Madness creates world’s first mulberry wood whiskey

One of the many interesting things about the Irish whiskey industry is that it allows producers to mature their spirit in casks other than oak. And that leads to all kinds of cool and curious creations. Like the latest Method and Madness expression. No strangers to experimental ageing, the brand is launching a new single pot still Irish whiskey finished in virgin white mulberry wood. It’s thought to be the first time anyone has used this wood type for maturing whisky. It’s sourced from Hungary, where its air-dried for two years at the Kádár sawmills in Tokaj before being transferred to a cooperage in Budapest. The Irish Distillers brand reveals the casks are just 50-litres which, combined with high porosity and medium toasting, imparts elevated flavours of wood spices and toffee sweetness. Before it was finished in the mulberry wood casks (for around three to eight months), the single pot still whiskey was matured in a combination of first-fill and re-fill American oak barrels. Finbarr Curran, Midleton’s wood planning and maturation team lead, says the innovation is the third world’s first in the Method and Madness range and that the brand’s commitment to wood experimentation and maturation has “taken us all over the world and led to the development of some of the most exquisite Irish whiskeys”. Adding: “It’s been a joyous journey of discovery and we look forward to continuing this exploration as we keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in Irish whiskey.” Oh, and while we’re talking about Irish Distillers, congratulations are in order for Brendan Buckley, the company’s international marketing director, who has been inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame to recognise his contribution to the growth of the Irish whiskey category on the global stage. Slainte, Brendan!

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we hear about the wonderful tale of a pub revival

The Carlton Tavern before demolition

Demolished London pub rebuilt brick by brick

It sounds like something from the plot of a feel-good film. Developer bulldozes historic pub illegally, locals rally round and the council orders developer to rebuild the pub. And they actually do, brick-by-brick in an exact recreation of the pub’s glory days. But this is exactly what happened to the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, west London. The pub closed in April 2015. Just before being granted Grade II listed status, the owner, a company with the perfectly sinister name of CTLX, demolished it having previously been denied permission to convert it into flats. Following a campaign by locals led by Polly Robertson, Westminster Council ordered the pub rebuilt, and against all expectations, it happened. Cleverly Robertson and Historic England took plaster casts of every tile because “we had a suspicion before the demolition that they would do something,” she said to the Guardian. Apparently, though, CLTX did a great job of rebuilding the pub which is now in the safe hands of Tom Rees and Ben Martin of Homegrown Pubs and will be opening soon. We just can’t wait for the film version starring Julie Walters, and Steve Coogan as one of the slippery property developers. 

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we welcome the revived White Heather Scotch whisky brand

White Heather is back, everyone!

The GlenAllachie revives blended whisky brand White Heather

You may know the brand for its considerable range of tasty single malts often aged in intriguing cask types, but GlenAllachie now has its own blended Scotch. It’s called White Heather, you know, like that whisky brand which was discontinued in the 1980s. The rights to it were acquired by The GlenAllachie Distillers Company in 2017, along with the distillery itself and MacNair’s Lum Reek. The blend was concocted in the GlenAllachie Distillery lab by master distiller Billy Walker, whose recipe has a high single malt content, with whiskies coming from the Highlands, Islay and Speyside. Of course, some vintage GlenAllachie is in there too. The whiskies spent an initial 18 years maturing in a combination of first-fill American barrels, sherry butts and second-fill barrels and hogsheads, before an additional three years in a mix of Pedro Ximénez puncheons, Oloroso puncheons and Appalachian virgin oak casks. This means the youngest whisky in this blend is 21-years-old. This factor, as well as there just 2,000 bottles available worldwide and the fact that it’s bottled at 48% ABV with no added colouring or chill-filtration explains the £120 price tag. Walker, who celebrates 50 years in the whisky industry next year (and joining Brendan in the Hall of Fame), says White Heather is particularly close to his heart as it took him back to when he began his career at Hiram Walker, where learned the art of blending. “With White Heather, I poured everything I’ve learned on my whisky journey into crafting a truly memorable small batch aged blend that sits proudly alongside even the very best single malts”. You can see for yourself how he’s done, as White Heather will be available from MoM Towers soon…

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we've got the lovely David Beckham and his new shiny new whisky.

Blend it like Beckham

Mediterranean Orange Haig Club coming soon

There’s a new Haig Club on the way! Don’t all rush at once. It’s fair to say that Haig Club since it was released in 2016 has taken a bit of a battering, as you can see from the ratings on the Master of Malt website. With its, if we’re being very polite, discrete flavour profile, it hasn’t caught the imagination of whisky fans. We reckon, however, that a new expression might be rather nice. It’s called Mediterranean Orange and according to the press bumf, it was “created in collaboration with brand partner, David Beckham.” Actual David Beckham himself commented: “Developing Haig Club Mediterranean Orange has been in the works for some time now and I’ve enjoyed helping select the final liquid. The orange perfectly complements the signature Scotch notes of Haig Club and it’s a great long drink for summer.” This new expression is not a whisky but a spirit drink flavoured with orange, sweetened and weighing in at 35% ABV which we think plays to Haig Club’s strengths, that discrete flavour profile. Violeta Andreeva, whisky marketing director, Diageo described it as an exciting step forwards for dark spirits,” (dark spirits, lol!) and continued: “We see this as a huge opportunity to recruit a new generation of drinkers as more and more consumers are choosing flavours and sweeter drinks.” We have to admit, in a long drink with lemonade or tonic water, it sounds delicious. Just don’t offer it to your mate with the Ardbeg tattoo.

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we learn not to mess with the SWA

It does look quite Scotchy

SWA files lawsuit against Canadian whisky producer over ‘Caledonian’ name

Vancouver’s Caledonian Distillery makes much of its Scottish heritage. Well, there’s the name for example. And it was set up in 2016 by a team of Scots including founder Graeme Macaloney and former Diageo master distiller Mike Nicolson with the late Jim Swan as a consultant. Products include Scotch-style single malts as well as Irish-style pot still whiskies. Now, as reported in the Spirits Business, the SWA has weighed in: “We have objected to the company’s use of certain words and terms that are strongly associated with Scotland on their whisky products,” a spokesperson said. Those words being  ‘Caledonian’, ‘Macaloney’, ‘Island whisky’, ‘Glenloy’, and ‘Invermallie.’ The SWA claim that they violate Scotch whisky’s GI and has filed a lawsuit against Macaloney. The firm issued a statement: “We are proud to celebrate our heritage including the Scottish ancestry of our founder and the story of his family, and firmly believe we have the right to do so in a way that celebrates both that history and reputation as a leading Vancouver Island craft distillery.” It will be interesting to see whether the two sides can come to a compromise. The SWA lost a lawsuit in 2009 against another Canadian Distillery, Glen Breton. We’ll keep you updated. 

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we feared we might win a competition you don't want to win...

Just remember all the good times before you go submitting us…

And finally… the search is on to find the worst tasting note 

Have you ever read a drink description that has left you amused, bemused or tearing your hair out with rage? Now, and not before time, satirical drinks website Fake Booze has launched a competition to find the worst tasting note. Whether it’s wine, beer, whisky or baijiu, according to Fake Booze, “if it’s crap it’s a contender.” The #thecrappies will feature a number of categories including ‘most pompous’, ‘crappiest food match suggestion’, and ‘most sexist.’ We have a top tip for that last category. You can enter with the #crapnotes hashtag on Twitter or send a DM to @fakebooze on Twitter/ fake.booze on Instagram. The winner will be announced at a star-studded ceremony in June, or maybe just on the Fake Booze website. It’s all highly amusing, but what if someone at Master of Malt wins? It won’t be so funny then.

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Master of Malt tastes… GlenAllachie’s Virgin Oak Series

We taste our way through GlenAllachie’s limited edition Virgin Oak Series and talk to master distiller Billy Walker about wood policy, oak species, local terroir and more, as well as…

We taste our way through GlenAllachie’s limited edition Virgin Oak Series and talk to master distiller Billy Walker about wood policy, oak species, local terroir and more, as well as how to ensure distillery character isn’t lost in experimental maturation. 

In October, The GlenAllachie Distillery tweeted that “Wood policy is an essential part of our master distiller, Billy Walker’s craft. He meticulously hand-selects all the casks from around the world”. The brand then invites fans to suggest cask types they’d like to see Walker use, and in the background, you can see a cask from Koval Distillery in Chicago, a ruby Port pipe and a Pedro Ximenez cask.

It’s a demonstration of how Walker works and what he wants GlenAllachie to be. October also marked three years since Walker bought the distillery near Aberlour in 2017 with Trisha Savage and Graham Stevenson and in this time they have become familiar with the site and its inventory and defined GlenAllachie as a distillery with a full-bodied, fruity, sweet and biscuity spirit, delivered in part by long fermentation (something of a signature of Walker’s), with a wood policy that emphasizes using oak with history and unique characteristics.

Which brings us to The Virgin Oak Series, a new range consisting of whiskies finished for twelve months in casks of different oak species from regions around the world: 12 Year Old Spanish Virgin Oak Finish12 Year Old French Virgin Oak Finish and 12 Year Old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish. Each whisky was first matured in white American oak ex-bourbon barrels and every virgin oak cask was toasted and charred to the same level (medium, toast for 30–40 minutes, char for 30–40 Secs). They were also bottled without any additional colouring or chill-filtration at an ABV of 48%, which means every parameter was kept consistent so any distinctions and nuances between the expressions will be down to the virgin oak casks.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

Billy Walker with the new range

Walker, who was awarded Master Distiller/Master Blender of the Year 2020 at the Icons of Whisky Awards, commented: “We had already a lot of knowledge on the behaviour of a variety of different virgin oak casks and thought it might capture the imagination of the curious inquisitive consumer. We have endeavoured to showcase how different oak genera can determine the flavour and organoleptic profile of the maturing whisky. We selected three oak styles which from our experience we know would deliver significant differences that the consumer could recognise and appreciate.”

He went on to explain how the three oak species each have their own distinct flavours caused by wood structure, pore size and chemical make-up. These characteristics are exacerbated by the different lengths of time each wood is air-dried for (see tasting notes). Walker said: “Natural air-drying provides a more natural and gentle drying experience in reducing the water presence down to under 10%.” 

Experimenting with maturation in this regard is incredibly exciting, but it does come with risks. A series like this is only interesting if we can observe how the GlenAllachie distillery character is affected by the cask types. If it’s overwhelmed by the virgin oak (which can easily happen), then the series falls flat. A full-bodied distillate helps, but Walker says that to avoid this pitfall, experience and knowledge are key. “We ensure that the secondary wood management does not overwhelm the fundamental DNA of the GlenAllachie distillate by allowing the secondary maturation to continue only until the “sweet spot” has been achieved. This requires a lot of sampling to follow its development. We were checking every fortnight”.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

The GlenAllachie Distillery, home to much experimentation and tasty whisky

Tasting the Virgin Oak Series (which you can watch Walker doing here), I think it’s fair to say that the experiment worked. The contrast between each expression is stark and, while the integration wasn’t always consistent, I was impressed with how much GlenAllachie personality is here. There’s a whisky for all palates in this range. The French Virgin Oak is the finest of the three in my book, but we’d love to hear which you enjoyed the most. Looking forward, Walker confirms that GlenAllachie has a lot of interesting things going on (look out for British oak and Mizunara casks) which he assures us will lead to some absolutely stunning releases. We look forward to trying them too. For now, check out our tasting notes and details on the new releases, which you can buy here, below.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old Spanish Virgin Oak Finish

The Spanish Virgin Oak was finished in hogsheads made of Spanish white oak (both it and the French oak are types of Quercus Robur) from the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. Walker says this area has a cooler climate and greater humidity than the rest of the country and that the pores of the Spanish virgin oak are less tight. When combined with the length of air drying (18 months), he says it imparts distinctive spicy, treacly notes with heather honey, treacle, coconut, orange zest, nutmeg and cinnamon”

Master of Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Soft toffee pennies, Bounty chocolate bar, floral honey and orange peel with dark chocolate, bruised peach, hazelnut, buttery biscuit, mini foam bananas and hints of fresh clove and cinnamon in support.

Palate: Waves of chocolate and milky coffee come through with treacle, apple blossom, floral notes, dried fruit, black pepper and stem ginger.

Finish: Long, delicately sweet and with Sugar Puffs some lingering spice and floral elements.

Overall: The cask has brought out the citrus, biscuity and spicy elements in an approachable, bright that possesses weight and complexity. The most fun of the three, but without the depth of the French oak.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old French Virgin Oak Finish

The French Virgin Oak Finish is made from French oak from the Haute-Garonne region near the Pyrenees and the wood was air-dried for 15 months. Walker says the wood is very finely grained and rich, which creates a subtle, sweet and earthy taste with silky tannins, honey, fruit, orange zest, honey and ginger.

Master of Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: At first there’s drying red apple skins, some earthiness, digestive biscuits and heather honey followed by a little mocha, pink grapefruit, chocolate orange, cinnamon and honeycomb.

Palate: Lots of coffee, tannins and butterscotch upfront, with orchard fruit, dried apricot liquorice and a touch of bran muffin underneath. 

Finish: Rich, sweet and long with cinnamon, white chocolate and citrus.

Overall: An earthy, more mellow and bittersweet dram that’s got so much depth and subtlety as well as the best integration of cask and distillate. 

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish

Finally, the Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish is made from casks from the northern Ozark region in Missouri, USA. Chinquapin is a sub-species of quercus alba (Quercus Muehlenbergeii). The casks are air-dried for nearly four years which Walker explains creates flavours of liquorice and even hints of rosehips, which accompany complex, zesty flavours with notes of heather honey, barley sugar, toasted biscuit and orange zest, mocha, anis, fennel, cinnamon.

Master of Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Vanilla tablet, fragrant citrus, honey and a little cacao leads with heather, polished oak, drying nutmeg and Thorntons Caramel Shortcake Bites in support.

Palate: Initially there’s butterscotch biscuits, stewed apple, hazelnut and honey on toast before that liquorice, aniseed boiled sweet elements appear among a little baking spice and sandalwood.

Finish: A big scoop of chocolate ice cream, buttery vanilla and plenty of cinnamon.

Overall: Hugely decadent and full of personality, but it’s a touch overwhelming for me.

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Five minutes with… Billy Walker, owner and master blender at Glenallachie Distillery

The wonderful Billy Walker of GlenAllachie Distillery fame has joined us to talk about making his mark, what the future holds and winning the Scottish Whisky Distillery Of The Year…

The wonderful Billy Walker of GlenAllachie Distillery fame has joined us to talk about making his mark, what the future holds and winning the Scottish Whisky Distillery Of The Year award.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Billy Walker since he took over GlenAllachie Distillery in 2017. In a preview he gave us back in October of that year, he outlined his ambitions for his new purchase and many have been achieved. Expressions have been added to the core range, including the recently released GlenAllachie 15 Year Old and in July the first Wood Finish range launched, which comprises of three expressions, the 12 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Sherry Wood Finish, the 10 Year Old Port Wood Finish and the 8 Year Old Koval Rye Quarter Cask Wood Finish. A visitor centre and shop were also unveiled in May which will welcome people to the distillery for the first time since it was built in 1967. Such has been the progress, The GlenAllachie even managed to pick up the Scottish Whisky Distillery Of The Year award at the Scottish Whisky Awards.

We thought it was high time we sat down once again with the veteran of the industry to discuss all the above, talk about what the future holds and more.

Billy Walker

Say hi to Billy Walker!

Master of Malt: Hi Billy! Congratulations on the Scottish Whisky Distillery Of The Year award.

Billy Walker: Thank you! It’s fantastic of course. It’s a pretty amazing award, but it doesn’t surprise me. That’s not a conceit, because it’s got nothing to do with me frankly, it’s got to do with the team and the available inventory, the shape of the inventory, the range of the inventory and indeed the spirit the distillery makes. Was it a surprise? Yeah, a little bit. We were delighted to be in the final choice, but yeah, to win it is fantastic.

MoM: How have the last two years been for you at GlenAllachie Distillery?

BW: The last two years have been all about interfacing and understanding, being really intimate with the individual casks, understanding what we have in the casks and working out if there is going to be enough for the direction we want to go in. It’s the case with all distilleries. You have to understand what the style of whisky is, the wood it’s in and what direction you want to take it. So, these last two years has helped us get an in-depth understanding of where we’re going and what we can release and the quality that we expect it to deliver.

MoM: What did you learn from your time at BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh?

BW: The one thing that was certainly brought home to me is that there is no shortcut to quality. It is important to understand the kind of vibrancy and the dynamism that is in the single malt sector in the last ten to 12 years. In that period we have learned that we need to be loyal to the routes to market through the private, independent sector. It’s a way for us to get visibility and loyalty without tiptoeing into the territory of big companies like supermarkets. We really don’t want to be in supermarkets in the short to medium term, if ever at all. And that’s the one thing we’ve learnt: build the brand, be patient, build the brand through the private independent retailers. Engage with informed consumers. Because these are the guys that will act as loyal and refreshing and honest ambassadors for our brand and indeed for other people’s brands.

Billy Walker

The Glenallachie Distillery

MoM: How would you describe the distillery to someone who didn’t know much about it?

BW: I always had an admiration for the spirit from Glenallachie because it was an extremely important contributor to some very, very famous blended whiskies. So we were familiar with the style, but we weren’t terribly familiar with the distillery infrastructure, but everything was perfect. The water supply is wonderful, it runs over granite and peat so it’s fantastic for both whisky and for fermentation generally. It’s a relatively big distillery. It can make 4.2 million litres of alcohol but we’ve tailored it down and we’re reaching about 800,000 litres at the moment. This has allowed us to do very important things like long fermentation (120 – 160 hours), which we’re big advocates of. We introduced it at the Ben Riach, we introduced it at Glendronach and we also introduced it at Glenglassaugh. With long fermentation, you get an extension of flavour development in the fermenter but more importantly, you bring a very benign, calm wash to the wash still so that the distillation process is much easier to control. The big bonus that we also have is warehousing capacity, we can store about 50,000 casks so we’re pretty well fully integrated. The only thing missing is a bottling plant but who knows… maybe that’s something we can do in the future. All-in-all, what we have inherited we are very, very happy with.

MoM: You’ve mentioned the possibility of creating a bottling plant. How likely is it that there will be any expansions or alterations of any of the distillery buildings or equipment in the near future?

BW: The bottling plant is certainly an idea at the moment. We would like to have the flexibility of having access to our own bottling unit, but it brings with it as many problems as solutions! But we’ll see. It’s too early, we’re too much in our infancy at the moment. We’re using a contract bottler with whom we are more than comfortable and it’s not on the horizon at the moment but it’s not off the radar. Well, one of the attractions of this distillery at Glenallachie is that it has terrific storage capacity, but I suspect that we will probably have a need to have some additional storage and that would certainly be something we would have to do sooner rather than later. It won’t be in the next 12 months, however, it wouldn’t surprise me if we did have to do it within the next 24 months.

Billy Walker

Walker is experimenting with different cask types

MoM: Can you describe the profile of the GlenAllachie new-make and what the distillery character is?

BW: We’re actually in the process of changing the character. Essentially what we’re looking for in the new-make is clean, sparkling fruits, vanilla, butterscotch, biscuity notes, the latter of which the long fermentation will deliver for us. We don’t want a dull, flat spirit. We want a full-bodied spirit that allows us to interface with rich wood. And we’re achieving that. We’ve done a lot of cask experiments and looked into various types of wood such as PX and oloroso and that’s exciting, just to see how you can change the direction of the flavour profile of the whisky as you go along. I go up to the distillery once or twice a week essentially to follow the development and note how each of the individual casks is developing and how the DNA of both young and mature spirit is moving along.

MoM: The distillery has a relatively recent history, is that liberating for you creatively to not have too much tradition and history to keep in line with?

BW: Oh unquestionably. It’s important to understand that back when this distillery was built the purpose of almost every single malt was to feed into one of the many famous and very good blended Scotch whiskies that existed then and indeed continue to exist now. If you reflect that when this distillery was built in 1960, it was at a time when there was a lot of activity in modernising and in building new distilleries that could become an integral part of some very important blended whiskies. The Glenallachie was made to feature in some of these blends, which I’m not going to name. You can contrast that to what we’re doing now because we have adopted a policy that we are not releasing any of our production to any third parties. We are focused on owning everything that we produce.

MoM: What does the future hold for GlenAllachie Distillery and what do you hope to achieve with the distillery?

BW: The important thing with any distillery is that you define and create your range of products to be compatible with the consumer base that you’re targeting. We’ve already discussed the importance of being a brand who aim to reach the market in a manner where they can be built and developed slowly, but in a way that where you are targeting and engaging with informed consumers who, in many ways, then become your ambassadors. We have to be patient; we know this is not a sprint, there are no shortcuts to quality. It’s a long term goal to deliver Glenallachie and we have ambition frankly. Our ambition is to be the best Speyside single malt in the region, and there are some competitors in there! But if we don’t have ambition we shouldn’t be creating.

Billy Walker

Walker wants Glenallachie to be the best single malt on Speyside

MoM: Back in 2017, you seemed open-minded when asked if you’d purchase another distillery, how do you feel now?

BW: We would not be against having another distillery in the stable. My only caveat in all of that is that it is becoming more and more difficult to actually acquire that kind of an asset. If something came up and it was the right fit and the price was right, then unquestionably we would be interested. But right now the prices are not really right! Of course, we would be comfortable having another distillery in-house and having the opportunity to work with another whisky would be fantastic. Playing with whisky is just such a wonderful obsession.

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The Nightcap: 9 November

We’ve got another edition of The Nightcap ready – time for your brain to hungrily digest these delicious morsels of drinks news! It’s Friday, fair folks that read the MoM…

We’ve got another edition of The Nightcap ready – time for your brain to hungrily digest these delicious morsels of drinks news!

It’s Friday, fair folks that read the MoM Blog! While this of course means that it’s time for your regularly scheduled instalment of The Nightcap, it’s also the day of the week that new CDs get released. So why not enjoy The Nightcap while listening to some fresh new jams – like a jazz album by Jeff Goldblum? Yes, that Jeff Goldblum. Jeff “Life finds a way” Goldblum. What does that have to do with booze? Nothing, we just think Jeff Goldblum is cool.

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GlenAllachie’s new releases are here!

Earlier this month, Speyside Scotch whisky distillery GlenAllachie announced it was releasing its first expressions since Billy Walker (formerly of BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh) took over at the helm in…

Earlier this month, Speyside Scotch whisky distillery GlenAllachie announced it was releasing its first expressions since Billy Walker (formerly of BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh) took over at the helm in July 2017. What better excuse to check in with him and catch up on distillery developments?

First things first: the first GlenAllachie expressions released under Billy Walker’s stewardship are here! There are six in total: A 1978 ex-sherry butt bottled at 55.9% ABV; a 1989 ex-sherry butt at 57.7%; a 1989 hogshead at 45.4%; a 1990 ex-sherry butt at 44.9%; another 1990 ex-sherry butt at 54.6%; and a 1991 hogshead at 55%. It’s a pretty tasty line-up coinciding with the distillery’s 50th anniversary, and the collection represents an exciting statement of intent from a producer which up until recently was predominantly focused on producing stocks for blends.

We’ve followed the GlenAllachie purchase and refurb pretty closely from MoM Towers, and spoke with Walker as recently as October to explore his plans for the distillery. But now actual liquid is here, it’s time to revisit. We got him on the phone shortly after his team issued the new products’ press release and chatted cask selection, production tweaks, the importance of blended whisky, and even the introduction of peated malt…

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A new dawn: Billy Walker sets out plans for Glenallachie distillery

Back in July, news broke that Chivas Brothers had sold the Glenallachie distillery to a consortium of investors led by Billy Walker, former managing director of The BenRiach Distillery Company. While…

Back in July, news broke that Chivas Brothers had sold the Glenallachie distillery to a consortium of investors led by Billy Walker, former managing director of The BenRiach Distillery Company. While the multi-million pound deal came as a surprise to some, for Walker it was written in the stars.

“The concept was always on the radar,” he confirms, after I ask whether he’d anticipated embarking on such a momentous project this year. After all, up until relatively recently he was still involved with BenRiach; the company he built up and sold to Brown-Forman in April 2016. “The reality [of it happening] was unlikely, but, as it was, the planets aligned themselves.”

And as the planets came together, so too did The Glenallachie Distillers Company. “We’re like-minded people,” says Walker of his colleagues – long-time business partner, Trisha Savage, and Inver House Distillers’ former managing director, Graham Stevenson. Combined, they have almost 100 years’ experience in the Scotch whisky industry. “I knew we shared the same kind of vision for the next journey – whatever that journey was going to be.”

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