When the distillery was taken over by the WALKER-STEVENSON-SAVAGE trio in 2017 the mission was clear: to make GLEN ALLACHIE something other than a whisky intended for Blend (Clan Campbell and Chivas) and to transform it into a first class Speyside.
Two elements were available to the new team for this purpose:
- a large stock of distillate (dating back to 1978);
- in addition to an already experienced team, the distillery now had a master-blender worthy of the name: Billy WALKER.
A brilliant chemist who worked in the whisky world through Ballantine's, Inver House Distillers (with a certain Graham Stevenson), Burn Stewarts and recently at Benriach (where he worked with a certain Trisha Savage) with whom he leads the GLENALLACHIE adventure). In short, the one recognized as "master of the quaich" (master of the quaich - you know the little tasting vessel found in every Scottish wharehouse) knows something about it!
To say that all this little team knew each other and could only do great things once they were together...
Before releasing the distillates of the new mill (for which the fermentation time was extended to 160 hours), which was expected to be more fruity than the old one, stocks had to be taken care of. To do so, the range was set up and offers a 10 year cask strength (to be tasted here), a 12 years, a 15 years (to be tasted here), an 18 years and a sublime 25 years (to be tasted here).
But you will say ok they are already very good and proposed at their good maturity, but not yet the WALKER paw (even if they are signed by his hand).
BILLY WALKER has decided to stand out from the crowd by offering on small series of distillates from stocks, but to which he will have applied a finish linked to his great knowledge of subtle wood blends and of the different types of burning and charring of the casks.
He has thus produced a range of now 6 limited series (3 in 2019 and 3 in 2020), all of which have in common a first ageing of 7 to 9 years in American oak casks. He then decided to "travel" his distillates to the United States, Spain and Portugal. Thus was born the Wood Finish ranges (batch 1 and 2):
- 10 years Port wood cask (8 years in American Oak and 2 years of finish in top-of-the-range ruby port casks) in 2019 ;
- 11 years Port wood cask (9 years in American Oak and 2 years of finish in ruby port) in 2020;
- 12 years Pedro ximénez cask (10 years in American Oak and 2 years of finish in puncheons of the same name) in 2019;
- 11 years Moscatel (9 years in American Oak and 2 years of finish in Moscatel cask) in 2020;
- 8 years Koval Quarter Cask (a 50 litre barrel finish directly from Illinois to the United States after a period spent in American oak barrels) in 2019.
- 9 years Rye (finished in Rye casks from Kentucky after an initial period spent in American oak) in 2020.
In short, a beautiful range of colours, from ruby red to gold, mahogany and bronze, and a sharp aromatic palette, since often if ageing in American oak is close, everything will play on a sometimes subtle finish!
That's why today we will try to find a difference between the two "rye" finishes: 8 years Koval Rye quater cask wood finish vs 9 years Rye wood finish.
As far as colour is concerned, you need a trained eye at the start of tasting to see that the gold colour of the 8-year-old Koval is a little lighter than the second (at the end of tasting there are no more differences! 😉). In any case, it is the finish which will be the less coloured of the original whisky.
On the nose, the finish in an organic Koval cask will reveal a bit more spice than the single rye. Anyway the smell of an American rye is very present and surprising when you are in the presence of a GLENALLACHIE.
The Koval finish will therefore be more inclined towards rye and especially spices (such as nutmeg and pepper) due to the fact that it is in a smaller barrel than the 9 year old Rye finish (smaller so more contact with the wood of the barrel). The Rye wood finish will therefore be a little less marked in spices and more in cinnamon. After the first nose, in both cases, the spices dissipate to reveal sweeter notes of vanilla and honey. These common notes will remain present on the Koval finish when the end of the Rye's nose is more focused on citrus fruits.
Both whiskies have an alcohol content of 48% so there should be no difference in strength.
Paradoxically to the taste, it is the opposite of the nose. The finish in small cask (which had a more spicy smell) is sweeter than the finish in Rye cask which will be more sustained. The first one will enter the mouth gently and with quite sweet notes (well marked "rye" nevertheless one will not be mistaken). The rye finish will be tighter and more spicy than the first one (the spices could perhaps come from a year more spent in American oak barrels than in rye barrels (organic or not, small or large barrels).
Afterwards the two finishes will nevertheless come together on the more usual notes of GLENALLACHIE (citrus, vanilla, spices and apples). One does not remake oneself. The finish comes out at the beginning when the real whisky comes out afterwards. It feels like a cowboy movie drinking a scotch that reminds us of rye.
The finish of the two whiskies is quite close with long slightly bitter notes of rye mixed with citrus fruits (those of the Koval finish will perhaps be more on lemon and those of the rye on orange).
In both cases, Billy Walker's wish to offer special, good and outside the flavours appreciated by the brand's enthusiasts without confusing them is successful. These two whiskies offer a nice trip from the north to the center of the United States through Speyside and deserve a little tasting.
I can't wait to do the same thing in Portugal or Spain... if you feel like it, don't hesitate to log on facebook for the tasting guided by the Keppers of quaich in person on May 7th at 7pm (Speyside time!) https://www.facebook.com/events/820335175122240/