Until the start of the 21st century Glenallachie was one of the younger distilleries in
Scotland. It was built in 1967 (partly 1968) by Mackinlay McPherson Ltd. - a subsidiary
of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd. Glenallachie is located in a part of Speyside
that's especially rich in distilleries; Banffshire. You can find the distillery just South of
Aberlour at the foot of Ben Rinnes mountain.
The Glenallachie distillery was bought by the Invergordon Distillers Group in 1985,
together with the Isle of Jura distillery. Invergordon closed Glenallachie in 1987.
Two years later the distillery was sold on to Campbell Distillers - a subsidiary of
industry giant Pernod Ricard. They added Glenallachie to the 'Chivas Regal' part of
their whisky portfolio, which also includes brands like Aberlour and Glenlivet.
Pernod Ricard also increased the number of stills from two
to four when the rekindled the fires of Glenallachie. Apart
from the stills, Glenallachie used a semi-lauter mash tun
and six washbacks that are lined with stainless steel.
Horizontal tube condensers are used, as opposed to the
regular vertical ones. Wash stills are shaped like lanterns,
the spirit stills like onions.
The Glenallachie distillery is relatively unknown, but with an annual production capacity
of 2,800,000 liters of pure alcohol per year (around the year 2010) it's actually among
the top 30 whisky distilleries in Scotland, production-wise. However, if my source was
correct they haven't used their stills at full capacity for some time - they annually put
out less than 2 million liters of malt whisky.
Most of the output of Glenallachie still goes into Chivas' own blends like Clan Campbell,
100 Pipers, Highland Clan, House of Lords, Passport, Queen Anne and, of course, the
Chivas Regal blend. There have been two or three official bottlings over the years (like the 12 years
old from the 1980's depicted above), but Glenallachie remains a relatively ‘low profile’ malt whisky distillery.
The Glenallachie distillery is located in the central Speyside region,
with Aberlour, Benrinnes, Dailuaine and Macallan as some of its
closest neighbours. The process water is acquired from sources
on Ben Rinnes mountain.
Even though it is located in the heartland of whisky country,
the distillery does not offer a tour for visitors.
1) The name of the distillery is pronounced as “glenALlakkee”.
2) Glenallachie is one of three distilleries built by William Delme Evans.
He also built the Isle of Jura and Tullibardine distilleries, founded in 1960 and 1949
respectively. William Delme Evans owned part of those two distilleries (he was
Managing Director at Jura) but this wasn't the case with Glenallachie.
3) Lothian Barclay was the 'designer' of the Glenallachie distillery.
4) Glenallachie distillery was closed and decommissioned in 1987, just 20 years
after it was opened. However, Pernod Ricard bought it in 1989, doubled the number
of stills to four and restarted production.
7) The production capacity at Glenallachie has been expanded in recent years;
these days the distillery can produce around 4,000,000 litres of whisky annually.
5) The Glenallachie malt whisky is an important component of the 'Glen Campbell'
and 'House of Lords' blends.
6) The 'quality spread' among bottlings of the Glenallachie single malt whisky is
quite large. They produced plenty of fairly unremarkable bottlings at the Glenallachie
distillery, but a few of them (both young and old) reached scores in the upper 80's or
even the lower 90's.
2005 - The very first official
bottling of Glenallachie is launched;
a 16yo expression from 1989. It is
released at cask strength, which is
fairly unusual for OB’s, especially
the only official bottling in a range.
2011 - 2 second-hand washbacks
from Caperdonich are installed.
2014 - A cask strength official bottling (distilled in the year 2000) replaces the previous official release.
But then again, it doesn't seem
like Glenallachie will ever develop a
portfolio of OB's like its neighbours
Aberlour or Macallan. The rare
Glenallachie OB is for sale at the
Chivas Regal visitor centre at
Glenallachie 35yo (46.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland Anniversary Selection, First fill sherry, 2010)
Nose: Rich, sweet and sweaty. Very expressive with fruits and organics struggling for dominance. Leather?
Lovely but tempered development over time. Smokey. Stylish and complex - but with a modest disposition.
Palate: Leather, tobacco and a fair dose of peat on the palate. No peat monster, but an 'antique' Speysider.
Score: 90 points - right up my alley. With stronger and chewier tannins it could have gone even higher.
When I sampled this in 2011, it was the very best bottling of Glenallachie I had ever tried.
Glenallachie 1981/2004 (55.9%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, Cask #600)
Nose: Ah! A subtle richness. Nicely balanced sherry with a hint of coffee.
The nose sweetens out with water. No other comments for this one this time...
Taste: Potent enough, with just the right amount of tannins for me. Salty.
Flattens out after adding water. No other comments for this one this time...
Score: 82 points - the nose shows lots of development; growing farmier with time.
Glenallachie 12yo 1992/2004 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Cask #453)
Nose: Appears quite young. A little grainy. Not too expressive - slightly farmy. Herbal & clean...
Taste: Touch of bitterness. Fairly flat and unimaginative. Decent enough but loses some points.
Score: 70 points - no obvious flaws but no highlights either. I've grown spoilt over the years...
Glenallachie 9yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt #1345, 902 Btl.)
Nose: Starts out restrained. Faint notes of fresh early fruits - mostly apples. Citrus?
Not a lot of 'sherried' notes. Quite MOTR, with more malty and nutty notes later on.
Just like the sample from Butt #1340 I tried in July 2002 it grows sweeter with time.
Taste: Soft, sweet and nutty start. Quite flat and nondescript. Dry, woody finish.
Score: 71 points - it's not bad but it could have done with some more character.
Glenallachie 13yo 1989/2003 (60.8%, Cadenhead's, Bourbon Hogshead, July 2003, 318 Bottles)
Nose: Restrained in the start. Hint of burnt toffee. Fudge. Mellowing out. Suggestion of some organics.
Taste: Bittersweet oranges like Cointreau. Southern Comfort? Almost liqueurish. Big sweet fruity finish.
Score: 86 points - it manages to improve on an impressive start. Hard to believe it's a bourbon cask!
The nose moves to tangerine with time. I hesitated to add water. When I did I got some warm milk.
After a minute the water really takes effect - a true 'peacock's tail', like Serge would say. Great!
Glenallachie 31yo 1971/2002 (53.8% Douglas Laing Platinum, 219 Bts.)
Nose: Polished and woody, sweetening out. Some acetone aroma's too. Almost like a grain whisky.
It opens up though, growing more complex with whipped cream and other bakery aroma's besides wood.
Taste: Woody with less sweetness than I found in the nose. Cool. Great mouth feel, though...
This really needs at least 30 minutes. Perhaps some organics and even a trace of peat eventually.
Score: 86 points - although it was just a smidgen too woody for the upper 80's for most of the time.
Glenallachie 8yo 1991/1999 (43%, Signatory Vintage, C#1340, Distilled 5/3/1991, Bottled 10/3/1999).
Nose: Soft. A little nondescript at first. Hints of oil & sour fruit. Sweet coffee?
Dried apples. Nuttier and maltier after a minute. It grows more powerful over time.
More sweet and spicy notes after fifteen minutes. Notable improvement!
Taste: Very smooth, put powerful as well. Honeyish sweetness. Big burn.
Long, dry finish. Really good; considerably better than the nose, IMHO.
Score: 78 points - four points more than an 11yo 1985/1997 SigVint I tried some time ago.
Is Glenallachie one of those malts that perform better at a young age?
Glenallachie 11yo 1985/1997 (43%, Signatory, Distilled 10/1985, Bottled 6/1997)
Nose: Very nice! Clearly Speyside; Complex with citrussy overtones at first.
More pepper later. Menthol after that. A lot of development.
Taste: Very smooth and slightly oily. Cold menthol or eucalyptus in the finish
Score: 74 points - interesting, but not very enjoyable. Loses points on the palate.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glenallachie malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenallachie I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glenallachie.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
Single malt bottlings of Glenallachie are very rare - and the vast majority
of those were produced by independent bottlers. After 'a decade of heavy
dramming' the malt maniacs had managed to find less than three dozen
independent bottlings by 2010, most of them bottled by Signatory Vintage.
There have been less than half a dozen bottlings that have been released
through the owners, but those can hardly be considered official bottlings.
The last time I checked the Malt Maniacs Monitor, Cadenhead's
had bottled only four expressions that we know of. Nevertheless,
it might be worth the effort because those expressions of the
Glenallachie single malt whisky were amongst the very best that
were ever released. Other expressions to hunt down are a 31yo
bottled in 2002 by Douglas Laing and a bottling of Glenallachie
by the Scotch Single Malt Circle in 2004 - cask number 6000.
Let's see - is there anything else worth sharing about Glenallachie?
Well, perhaps not about the single malt whisky bottlings; those are
exceptions. Glenallachie is one of those distilleries which were built to
produce 'industrial' malt whisky for use in blends like Clan Campbell.
As such, it’s not a very ‘romantic’ distillery.
However, Glenallachie has one feature that makes it interesting for whisky lovers with a 'green' heart. The Scotch
whisky industry is hardly environmentally friendly, but around 2009 Glenallachie made a step in the right direction.
A 'membrane bioreactor' was installed at the distillery which enabled the distillery to release its waste water into
the nearby Lour Burn without significant negative effects on the Scottish environment. By increasing the PH-value,
the copper particles have less of a negative effect.