We were not alone in our grief when news broke in 2016 that the BenRiach Distillery Co. had been sold to Brown Forman. For the previous decade, BenRiach and GlenDronach had been two of the most interesting distilleries to watch. Their impresario Billy Walker had built both whisky brands into respected players in the single malt world. Billy Walker was personally seen as an industry leader and innovator. What I didn’t know at the time, was that Billy didn’t want to sell, but his partners needed the money and wanted out, thus he had no choice. His storied career was not done yet however, there was at least one more chapter to write.
I paid my first visit to the GlenAllachie Distillery in May this year. Billy Walker and a small consortium had just purchased it from Pernod Ricard a few months earlier and were still in the process of digesting their acquisition and getting a core whisky range ready for the market. In all the years (more than a decade) that I had worked with his brands, I had never actually met Billy. He was more warm and humble than I expected, a true gentleman. I hovered as he diluted advanced samples of the BenRiach 12 and 25-year-olds which they were getting ready for markets around the World. He gave me an opportunity to sample them, and even though he was busy he made the time to make me feel welcome and answer my questions. Here was a business owner who was passionate about his product, proud of his legacy and the people who worked for him and genuinely interested in his customers.
Billy’s acquisition of The GlenAllachie was not the first time he had purchased a distillery from Pernod. Both BenRiach and Glendronach Distilleries were acquired over a pint with a contract scribbled on a napkin if you believe his son Alastair’s telling of the tale. After selling the BenRiach Distillery Co. to Brown Forman, Billy was looking for a new project. He approached Pernod Ricard with a proposal to relaunch and rebrand the Scapa Distillery in the Orkneys. Pernod politely turned him down, but offered him the opportunity to purchase GlenAllachie. Billy jumped at the opportunity to acquire this almost unknown Speyside distillery, and purchased it with partners Trisha Savage and Graham Stevenson. The acquisition included 50,000 casks of maturing whisky.
The GlenAllachie 12 Year is one of the newly independent distillery’s first core releases, alongside a cask strength 10 Year, 18 Year and 25 Year. As with the BenRiach Distillery Co.’s whiskies, Billy has opted to bottle at 46% without colouring or chill-filtering. That tugs at our heartstrings!
Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle
The GlenAllachie 12 Year – 46% – Probably Ex-Bourbon & Ex- Sherry –
Andrew’s Tasting Note
Nose: Old English Butterscotch ice cream, plum pudding, silky soft leather gloves and tangy Manuka honey; dark chocolate shavings and white chocolate Hershey’s Kisses.
Palate: rich, fruity and layered; a beautifully balanced melange of both sherry and bourbon notes; more Old English Butterscotch, Manuka honey and plum pudding; Fruit by the Foot, with cooked raisins and dried prunes; salty licorice and dark bakers chocolate towards the back.
Finish: medium in length and intensity; still very balanced and smooth.
Comment: if this is a sign of things to come we are all in store for some great bottlings from the next ‘it’ Speyside distillery. – $85
Playing catch-up on our 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar?