#27.3 Speycation

From Glenallachie to the
blend of Doom


TL;DR: Saturday morning we visited a distillery that is special to us, Glenallachie. After an amazing tour and a few drams, we spent the rest of the day walking around Dufftown, enjoying the sun. We finished the day with a sip of the infamous Blend of Doom and a pizza at the Craigellachie Lodge.

(missed Part 2/Part 1?)

That Saturday morning was a very nice one, warm and shiny…We’re told that’s unusual for Speyside in October, but it’s not the first time we got one. After breakfast, we jumped on the bus towards Aberlour (the village, not the distillery again) to reach our next destination: GlenAllachie distillery!

Such a beautiful day for a distillery visit!

We were super excited about that. When we visited it in August 2021, on a much colder and wet day (so much that we couldn’t light up our BBQ in the evening!), it wasn’t possible to tour the facility because of Covid, so we only had a tasting while the guide played us an interesting video. It wasn’t one of those ‘let’s celebrate Scotland’ videos with deer, waterfalls, glens, mist, etc…, but literally a worker filming and explaining production with their phone, so much more interesting in our opinion. This time, we could finally visit production. And mostly, we really like their stuff. We know some whisky geeks are put off by the big use of secondary maturation and finishes, but we love their bottlings anyway and we regard the whisky as top notch, so far it never disappointed.

That morning the distillery was (almost) all for us. Sue, Brenda and Karen warmly welcomed us with a dram, a special one to start with, one we hadn’t tried before: a 15y GlenAllachie finished in Virgin Scottish Oak wood (48%, non-chill filtered, NCF, and not artificially coloured NC). Then, they split us into two groups, to have a bit more space while wondering around: our group started with the tour. We had a look at the usual Porteus Mill, and the huge stainless steel closed mashtun.

Milling, safely.

The washbacks are made of steel as well, and there are 6 of them. Currently the distillery is running way below capacity, a bit less than a half in our understanding. This started when Billy Walker bought the distillery in 2017, to improve the produced spirit. In particular, fermentation is now about a week long, and they don’t work during weekends. In the still room, two wash stills and two spirit stills were off for the weekend…so we could take a sneak peek inside (just another occasion for a silly photo). Finally, we went to the warehouse to admire the maturing stock and the huge variety of casks (wine, various size of sherry and bourbon, etc.); they laid out not a typical dunnage warehouse, but a racked one.

Fun or creepy? You decide.

Back at the visitor centre, we had another two delicious drams in the tasting room: the 16y Present Edition (48%, NCF, NC, Mizunara and Virgin oak) released in celebration of Billy Walker 50 years in the business, and the Glenallachie 21y Batch 2 (51.1%, NCF, NC). Well, it looked like that was it. Instead, we moved upstairs to join the other group, to have two last drams all together. Such a nice touch! The two drams were the bottle-your-own (or distillery casks) on sale at the shop at the time: an 11y ex-oloroso puncheon (60.5%, NCF, NC) and a 16y finished in refill ex-bourbon barrel which held peated whisky before (59.5%, NCF, NC), both amazing (and of course, we came back home with one)!

Overall, this was one of our best distillery tours ever: Sue, Brenda and Karen were all very funny and knowledgeable, and we could see how they love their job. Karen even told us that she followed Billy Walker after he acquired the distillery, after Glenglassaugh was sold to Brown Foreman (together with GlenDronach and Benriach).

So delicious!

Here, we have to make a little digression. Speyside is by far the biggest whisky region, not by size but by number of distilleries and production quantity. Therefore, in the planning phase of the trip, at first it looked like we had a plethora of possibilities that we wouldn’t know where to start, like for a kid going to Disneyworld or Legoland. Unfortunately, it didn’t go down like that, and according to Justine filling the schedule was much harder than prevented. In some cases, she was told that there was personnel shortage. Others still have to come back to her (6 months after…ahahah). This felt really weird and very much in contrast with our first EWG trip to Campbeltown – the smallest whisky region, and by far the smallest production (according to the 2023 Malt Whisky Yearbook the 3 distilleries combined don’t get to 2.5 million litres per annum of alcohol), so with a limited number of available activities. Still, despite this and Covid restrictions at the time, we managed to have a very full schedule fairly quickly (Cadenhead’s warehouse tasting, Springbank, Glengyle, and tastings with Mark Watt from Watt Whisky, Ian McAllister from Glen Scotia and Kyntire gin).

Things you see if you take a walk in Dufftown.

We discussed a few times about this ‘Speyside struggle’ in the group, and probably the main cause was the lack of personnel indeed (thanks Brexit, “the gift that keeps giving”…), but we suspect that some of them just couldn’t be arsed to organise an open day for 22 thirsty whisky enthusiasts. A bit unexpected, but in the end we managed to have a great holiday anyway, as Justine came up with some great surprises for us.

Anyway, all this to say that, as a matter of fact, the Saturday afternoon was free from whisky activities, and we decided to spend it in Dufftown. After a brief lunch in a café near the clock tower (characterised by some quite rude staff), the day was still so nice that a group of us decided to walk around, and we basically repeated Michelle’s walking tour we did in 2019: from the clock tower to Dufftown distillery, then Mortlach, Glendullan and we finished off at Glenfiddich. This time, however, we checked out Balvenie’s castle, which unfortunately was still closed (together with a worrying number of Historic Scotland sites, we later found out). Here our pal Joe opened a Glen Scotia Double Cask rum finish, a novelty of that period, and shared it with us.

Balvenie castle, not the distillery.

Back to the bus, we moved to Craigellachie, and as we had some time to kill before dinner at the Craigellachie Lodge, we went down to the Spey’s bridge where Justine had something “very special” ready for us: THE BLEND OF DOOM!!!

That’s the Blend of Doom for you.

This is a bottle she filled throughout the years with all the whisky samples she tried but didn’t (or couldn’t) finish. It was very funny to see people faces – to Gianluigi it tasted like old bathroom cleaning products, but most people went directly to “piss”. It was truly dire, and almost felt like an initiation ceremony for the Edinburgh Whisky Group. Fortunately, the pizza together with a pint and a dram, bingo and music set things right again in our mouth, so we could go to bed happy again.  

GlenAllachie Connoisseurs Tour*
*ours was a bespoke tour, but from the description and price it looks very similar to this one

Price: £50.00 (Oct 2022, now £60)

Duration: 2h

Tasting: 5 drams, 15y Scottish Oak (48%), 16y Mizunara Billy Walker 50th year anniversary (48%), 21y Batch Two (51.1%), Vintage 2011 11y distillery cask ex-oloroso puncheon (60.5%), Vintage 2006 16y distillery cask ex-peated bourbon barrel (59.5%)

Value for money: very good

Highlights: the guide team was superb, knowledgeable and very funny!

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Distillery exclusives: there are always two distillery cask bottle-your-own available

Recommended: absolutely!

Link: https://theglenallachie.com/

Author: Dramming Around

A pretend-to-be-young Italian couple on a quest to discover whisk(e)y distilleries and their golden nectar

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