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Monday, April 22, 2019

GlenAllachie 10 year old Cask Strength, batch 1

I have mixed feelings about Billy Walker's whisky work.

On one hand he did a masterful job building his GlenDronach brand by bottling high quality whisky made by a different owner (Allied). His team also bottled a modern classic, GlenDronach 15 year old Revival, until the old whisky ran out. He also created my favorite range of alternative cask finished peated whiskies over at Benriach. As far as the whisky actually made under his command, the GlenDronach Hielan is pretty good.

On the other hand, once the Glendronach honey casks started running low, lower quality casks were re-racked (or finished) in fresh sherry casks and that was never disclosed to consumers. The cask strength Benriach whiskies distilled by his team, and his peated Glendronach are multiple levels below the quality of the whiskies distilled by previous owners.

Also note this timeframe:
2014 - Glendronach's re-racking and unreliable labelling became widely known thanks to great work by My Annoying Opinions and Ralfy.
2015 - Glendronach 15 year old Revival is removed from the range. Whiskies distilled by Billy Walker's team see their first release.
2016 - Glendronach and Benriach are sold to Brown-Forman.

This was a wise business move, selling high before risking any further damage to the brands. At the same time, it would be understandable of current or former Glendronach and Benriach enthusiasts are less enthusiastic about this series of events.

A year after the big sale, a consortium that included Billy Walker purchased Glenallachie distillery (and a whole lotta stock) from Pernod Ricard. In 2018, Walker-era single malts, branded as The GlenAllachie, appeared on the market. I will be reviewing three of these standard range whiskies this week. Let's see what been done with Pernod's Glenallachie casks.

Distillery: Glenallachie
Ownership: The Glenallachie Consortium (seriously?)
Region: Speyside (Aberlour)
Age: minimum 10 years old
Maturation: Oloroso, Pedro Ximenez and virgin oak casks
Outturn: 12,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
Chillfiltered: No
Colorant added: No
(from a purchased sample)

The nose is a virgin oak candyland, all taffy, vanilla, caramel and coconut. There's also grapefruit, eucalyptus, orange popsicles and gummy bears. The palate starts out hot and tangy. Beneath the heat is A LOT of sugar with bits of bitterness and barley. Plenty of vanilla, specifically vanilla marshmallows. It finishes sweet and hot. Vanilla and barley with hints of limes and bitterness.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ½ tbl of water per 30mL whiskey
The nose becomes simpler and more focused. It's just vanilla, flowers and tropical fruit candy. The palate is still very sweet. There's also tart citrus, toasty oak and a hint of woody bitterness in the mix. The tart, peppery finish has more woody bitterness and vanilla than the palate.

I could tell you that the nose was so-so and the palate never really worked, but I'd rather focus on the cask issues here. The PX casks are nowhere to be found and the Oloroso casks are smothered. There's just so much new or recharred American oak in the glass that I'm left wondering, "How crummy were the Pernod casks?" Mark Reynier & Co went with wine casks when they inherited questionable Bruichladdich stock. Walker & Co are going with new oak? I hope this is not seen as a permanent solution. Will the other two GlenAllachies fare better?

Availability - Many specialty whisky retailers
Pricing - Europe: €55-€70 (w/VAT); USA $60-$80
Rating - 76

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