This week's review focuses on an expression from a distillery that is rather obscure, but no less important than the rest due to its purpose. Not many people would have heard of the name Allt-a-Bhainne (let alone be able to pronounce it right on the first try), but its role within the Chivas Brothers (and by extension, Pernod Ricard) stable is quite critical.
The distillery was established in 1975 as a result of the legendary Sam Bronfman (who was the head of the Bronfman family which controlled Chivas Brothers' parent company Seagrams back in the day) realised that he needed to either purchase or build up to five distilleries in order to secure a consistent supply of bulk whisky for the company's various blends.
As he had introduced the 100 Pipers blended Scotch whisky brand in 1966, Bronfman wanted to position the brand as a challenger to the established brands within the American market and after a failed attempt at purchasing Glenlivet distillery, he embarked on a campaign to build 5 distilleries in 5 years.
Braeval (or Braes of Glenlivet as the distillery is sometimes known as) was the first to be built in 1973 and Allt-a-Bhainne followed a year later. But by 1977, Seagrams was able to secure the purchases of Glenlivet, Glen Grant and even Longmorn distilleries, thus fulfilling their requirements.
In terms of equipment, the distillery possesses a 9-tonne mash tun, 8 stainless steel washbacks and 2 pairs of stills. In order to make the distillery more energy efficient, thermal compressors were installed in 2011 and the distillery currently runs at full production over a 7 day a week cycle and is currently producing 4 million litres of pure alcohol an an annual basis.
This week's review focuses on the Allt-a-Bhainne 21 Years Old expression, which was distilled in 1991, matured in a first-fill sherry butt by the distillery and bottled under the Old Malt Cask brand by the predecessor parent company, Douglas Laing.
Allt-a-Bhainne 1991 21 Years Old (50% abv)
Colour: Deep red
Nose: Initial entry presents a pronounced sherry note coupled with rich red fruits (apricots, peaches and stewed red apples), icing sugar and a certain woodiness. With time, cinnamon, nutmeg and citrus fruits emerge alongside barley sugar, making this a rather enticing dram.
Palate: The sherried sweetness and rich red fruits transfer onto the palate from the nose and there is a certain savouriness on the palate which is reminiscent of the meaty notes that one would expect from a Mortlach. With time, the wood spices from the nose also emerge and there is a dryness to the sherry which intermingles rather well with the oak.
Finish: Long, lingering and rich finish filled with the dense sherry, rich red fruits and some cinnamon. Simply delicious!
Balance: A very well balanced and inviting dram, which showcases what the distillery is capable of and also what a hidden gem it is. The base spirit holds up extremely well to the first-fill sherry maturation and is moulded into something truly exceptional. What a wonderful dram!
The Allt-a-Bhainne 1991 21 Years Old is available for purchase by the dram or the bottle for in-bar consumption as well as by the bottle for retail/takeaway purposes. For more information, please approach our friendly bar staff and they will be happy to assist you with any enquiries.
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