Spirits of Calgary: GlenAllachie @ Buchanan’s Chop House

16 09 2018

By Tyler Derksen

It is not often that I get an opportunity to try whisky that hasn’t hit the local market yet, but when such an opportunity arises, you know I’m going to take it.  This past Wednesday I had the privilege of sampling a group of whiskies from scotch distiller GlenAllachie which will be hitting the Alberta market for the first time this month.  The tasting was hosted at Buchanan’s Chop House, a fitting venue given its substantial whisky collection, and was presented by Alasdair Stevenson of GlenAllachie Distillers Company.

The GlenAllachie Distillery

The “GlenAllachie” lettering was created by a stone-carver and connects the distillery and its brand to the ancient rock formations near which the distillery was built.

GlenAllachie, from the Gaelic for “Valley of the Rocks”, has a relatively short history, especially when compared to its other Scottish cousins.  Located in the heart of Speyside near Aberlour, it was built in 1967 by William Delmé-Evans (who also built Tullibardine, Jura and Macduff) with production commencing in 1968.  The distillery’s design is largely gravity-fed, which allows for the use of far less energy than a conventional distillery; while such an initiative may be more common now in 2018, it was certainly  far less so 40 years ago.  GlenAllachie’s production continued until 1985, at which point it, like so many other casualties of worldwide recession and excess production, was briefly mothballed.  Fortunately, that period of inactivity didn’t last and Campbell Distillers, later part of global beverage behemoth Pernod Ricard, took over and reopened the doors in 1989.  For much of its history, GlenAllachie’s production has contributed to various blends, including Chivas, Ballentines and other prominent blended whiskies.  It is only now, under new ownership, that the distillery is finally releasing a line of single-malt distillery bottlings.

IMG_1103

In 2017, three whisky industry veterans — Billy Walker, Graham Stevenson and Trisha Savage — purchased the distillery, making GlenAllachie independently Scottish owned, which is a far rarer designation than one would guess.  The involvement of entrepreneur Billy Walker is cause for excitement and optimism, as he comes to GlenAllachie after reinvigorating both BenRiach and GlenDronach, which are each amazing distilleries (as those that followed Pop & Pour’s coverage of Kensington Wine Market’s Whisky Advent Calendar the past few years will know).  In addition to the distillery itself, the new owners of GlenAllachie also purchased a considerable library of casks dating back to the 70s, which now permits GlenAllachie to release single malt bottlings with age statements right out of the gate while they find their own signature characteristics and flavour. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 22

22 12 2017

By Tyler Derksen

For those of you that have been following along at home as Peter and I have explored each of the whiskies thus far in the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, you will note that there has been a wide variety of offerings from a number of different countries.  It is a testament to the hard work of Andrew Ferguson and Kensington Wine Market that there have been no duplicate producers…that is, until tonight.  It was with a sense of excitement and trepidation that I reached through the little cardboard door and found a familiar cylindrical container.  Glenfiddich.  Again.  Of all of the whisky that I have tried this Advent season, it was the Glenfiddich 15 that has most disappointed.  As I said back on Day 10, that is not to say that it is a bad whisky, I just think it tries too hard to appeal to too many people and sacrifices character for such mass appeal.

Just as one must seek out the opinions or views of those with whom they disagree in order to grow intellectually, so too must one be willing to try all kinds of whisky in order to grow as an uisgeophile.  I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to purchase a bottle of Glenfiddich, so I looked forward to sampling a new offering.  Today’s whisky is the Glenfiddich 18 Year Old Small Batch Reserve, which is the most aged whisky I’ve tried from the distillery.

IMG_4222

This Glenfiddich 18 was aged in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and American oak and each batch is individually numbered (apparently only on full-sized bottles, as the 40 ml sampler doesn’t have a number).  In doing some research on how this whisky was made, Glenfiddich once again uses the word “consistency” in its marketing.  Sigh.

The colour was a golden colour in the glass with a fascinating ring around the outside that looked almost clear.  The nose was much more pronounced than the 15 Year I tried a couple of weeks ago.  The sherry cask influence comes through clearly on the nose, with dried fruit taking centre stage along with oatmeal raisin cookie, cinnamon, vanilla, sawdust and a spritz of citrus.  I needn’t have been so concerned about the looming spectre of “consistency”, as the flavour was actually quite enjoyable.  The palate was brighter than expected, with flavours of vanilla, orange, pear and baking spices.  Despite being bottled at the same 40% as the 15 Year Old Solera, this whisky has a nice slow burn to follow the bright palate, which was unexpected but appreciated.  Overall, this whisky certainly exceeded my (admittedly tempered) expectations and I’m glad of the opportunity to try it.

 





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 20

20 12 2017

Tyler and I have repeatedly lauded the 2017 version of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar for its diversity and novelty, for giving new whiskies and new brands who have never before graced the inside of a decorative Christmas countdown box an opportunity to shine.  Tonight’s whisky is – not an example of that.  If there is one label that is a common denominator of every Whisky Advent Calendar I’ve drank my way through, it is most definitely the Connoisseurs Choice line from massive independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail, as seen on Day 5 this year and in at least a half dozen other incarnations in calendars past.  Day 10 of 2015 featured an 18 Year malt from a G&M CC bottling of a relatively obscure distillery called Auchroisk, and tonight we get its younger brother, an 11 Year distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2016 under a highly questionable scrubs-green label colour scheme.  Auchroisk is not often seen bottled under its own name but is generally known to produce fruitier whiskies due to its use of taller, slender-necked stills, which tend to result in a lighter spirit during distillation.

IMG_7271

Totally not sold on the hospital green colour scheme for this CC label.

The 2005 bottling doesn’t appear at all on the comprehensive Gordon & MacPhail website (which shows over 150 different Connoisseurs Choice whiskies), but it appears to have been matured in American hogsheads and retails for around $100 (it’s also not on KWM’s website, making it doubly difficult to research).  It is a friendly Labrador Retriever of a scotch from the get-go, immediately presenting with easy and appealing aromas of bananas foster, cinnamon, rum raisin cake, honey and celery root/lemongrass.  Fresh, rich and floral on the palate, it melds peach and cantaloupe fruit with honeycomb and vanilla bean creaminess, not overly expansive or complex but pleasantly direct and unabashedly charming.  A worthy CC dram, though hopefully the last we’ll see of G&M until 2018.





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 8

8 12 2017

The unofficial theme of the scotches (that is, Scotland-derived whiskies) from the 2017 calendar so far is giving unsung heroes their moments in the spotlight.  Like at least two other scotches in the 7 days before it — the two that led off Advent this year — this bottle comes from a little-known obscure distillery (in this case, Glentauchers in Speyside) whose substantial production forms the workhorse component of much-better-known blended whiskies (in this case, Ballantine’s) but who almost never gets to release a single malt under its own banner.  Glentauchers was founded in 1897, managed to produce until 1985 before being mothballed for 7 years, was then acquired by Chivas Brothers and has been churning out blend backbones ever since.  Its fleeting solo appearance comes courtesy of independent bottler extraordinaire Gordon & MacPhail, which has a whole range of Distillery Labels that sees them release a hidden-treasure distillery’s whisky under the distillery’s own logo and branding – very cool.  It is not my first Advent encounter with this range:  in fact, my very first KWM Whisky Advent Calendar bottle EVER was a Distillery Label bottling from the Linkwood distillery, followed shortly in the 2014 calendar by another DL bottling from Mortlach.  Neither of those, however, were 20-year malts.  This one is.

IMG_7145

Distilled in 1996 and then aged in sherry casks before being bottled last year in 2016, the Glentauchers has had plenty of time to mature and develop flavours, and it shows in a sweeping nose of carrot cake, wheat fields, tangerine, lemongrass and marzipan, as holidays-ready a set of smells as I can recall.  Luxurious and pure, it spreads out slowly, taking its time to unfurl before hitting on a distinctly prominent Amaretto note about halfway through the midpalate, a double-take hallmark flavour that just continues to emphasize itself even (especially?) after you swallow.  It’s so remarkably vivid.  Wild.  If I had to try to pull out other flavours:  Sap?  Cinnamon toast?  Banana bread?  Nope, forget it, it’s Amaretto all the way.  One of the most fun offerings in the calendar thus far without question.





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 1

1 12 2017

Aaaaaand we’re back.  I am almost flabbergasted to say that this is the FOURTH straight year I will be live-blogging through Whisky Advent, all thanks to the near-superhuman efforts of Andrew Ferguson and the Kensington Wine Market, whose Whisky Advent Calendar has quickly gone from quirky daily education and liver damage to can’t-miss holiday imbibing and has sucked me further into the world of whisky than I could have expected.  By the end of Advent there will be over 100 whisky reviews on Pop & Pour, which is not something I had envisioned when the site first started up, but an experience I will never forget (especially on Advent Day 17 when I’m ready to die).  One big change this year is that I’m sadistic enough to have also acquired a Wine Advent Calendar this year (which you’ll hear much more about in a couple of hours) and will thus be calling on expert whisky assistance to help me traverse the Advent trail:  frequent PnP tasting collaborator and awesome spirit aficionado Tyler Derksen will be contributing his first whisky reviews on the site over the course of these 25 days.  Give him a Twitter follow so as not to miss his posts!

IMG_7101

Take 4.  Bring it.

After opening 74-odd little cardboard doors and drinking 74-odd KWM calendar whiskies, you wouldn’t think there would be much room left for surprise, let alone confusion, but tonight there was plenty of both.  The first thing I saw on the whisky label was “Campbeltown”, a once-happening but now nearly abandoned distilling region (something I know due to Past Calendar Knowledge) currently home to only 3 distilleries.  The thing is, the names on this label were none of those three.  It turns out, as far as I can tell, that this is a release from an independent bottler called WM Cadenhead’s, who acquires pre-made whisky from distilleries and releases it under its own branding, a common Scottish practice.  The bottler is based in Campbeltown; the distillery from which the whisky came, not so much.  It is the extraordinarily unknown Dailuaine-Glenlivet Distillery in Speyside, founded back in 1853 and now, like so many others, part of the Diageo empire.  Despite its significant annual production, it doesn’t even have its own website and only the tiniest fraction of its creations get released under the D-G label — most of it ends up as part of the Johnnie Walker blend.  I’m not sure how Cadenhead’s got this, but it may be as much a peek behind the Dailuaine curtain as we ever get.

IMG_7102

First impressions:  this is 55.9% alcohol.  Welcome to Advent.  It is an almost eerily pale straw colour, and even with water added it still emits crusty cheese-rind and dried shoe polish aromas layered over hard toffee candy and smacks of salt sea air.  As you might expect of something of this concentration, it is both explosively fiery and pleasantly gut-warming, starting almost gritty but leaving glowing embers of contentment after you swallow.  It reminds me of an old abandoned log cabin on the beach, powered by kerosene, with bear pelt rugs and traces of fish skins lingering, matchsticks and Neo Citran.  It’s rustic, rough around the edges, but full of soul, and the more I had the more I enjoyed.  But again, 55.9%.  Onward!





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 22

22 12 2016

I have started to think of Glenfarclas as the official mascot scotch (mascotch?) of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, after 2014’s special Christmas Eve 40 Year and 2015’s Christmas Eve redux 25 Year, not to mention two other entries in calendars past.  I was sort of wondering if we’d see a third straight December 24th whisky from the distillery, but I also suspected we were starting to run out of super-old Glenfarclas releases to slot in that esteemed end-of-calendar spot.  Well, it got Day 22 this year, with the notably younger $95 15 Year Single Malt – still a respectable position if not an exalted one.  Glenfarclas is one of the few pre-20th century distilleries not to be shut down or sold to a gigantic beverage empire in modern times, owned by the Grant family since 1865 when patriarch John Grant bought it for just shy of £512.  That sounds astoundingly cheap even in 1865 money, and it is:  it equates to around £59,000 today, or around $98,000 CAD.  Nice buy, John.  We are now six generations of Grants (all of whom have been named either John or George) into the family’s stewardship of Glenfarclas, which is known for producing one of the classic examples of Speyside whisky out of the region’s largest stills.

fullsizerender-515

To obtain the legal designation of “scotch whisky”, a spirit has to (1) be aged in oak casks (2) which are no larger than 700L (3) for at least three years (4) in Scotland.  Glenfarclas uses both plain new oak casks (which we haven’t heard much of in this year’s calendar) and ex-Sherry casks (with which we have been bombarded by this year’s calendar, and by the whisky industry in general), and it is definitely known for its emphatic use of the latter.  The 15 Year is a glimmering dark amber colour reflective of its barrel time and has a few different aromatic identities:  confectionary (butterscotch chips, and nougat, like the inside of a Three Musketeers bar), nutty (almonds, oatmeal), herbaceous (corn husks, grass).  Bold and fiery as soon as it touches the tongue, this is not messing around, slinging toast and spice, banana Runts, mandarin orange, Americano, char and vegetal flavours with authority and powering into a lacquered finish.  It is punchy and powerfully concentrated, coming across like a cask strength whisky despite its 46% abv.  Mammoth scotch.





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 16

16 12 2016

I’m learning.  I half-pulled tonight’s mini-bottle out of its cardboard home, saw the uber-Scottish name of a distillery I had never previously seen or heard of, and immediately hunted for the tiny Gordon & MacPhail logo tucked discreetly on the bottom of the label.  Another Distillery Label G&M Whisky?  You betcha.  On Day 8 it was the gleefully Scottish Miltonduff that got its quasi-day in the sun, and 8 days later it’s the equally blue-and-white Glenburgie 10 Year Single Malt (another Glen for the roster!) that has its turn.  As mentioned a week or so ago, the Distillery Label series is Gordon & MacPhail’s collaborative effort with a series of lesser-known distilleries to bottle a whisky that’s as close as possible to the producer’s own release through the invisible hand of G&M’s independent bottling empire.  The effort goes right down to the packaging, which is made to look like it came right from the distillery’s own marketing department; you almost need a magnifying glass on these mini-bottles to see that Gordon & MacPhail had anything to do with them.

fullsizerender-509

Glenburgie is a Speyside-based distiller and yet another scotch producer that’s mainly used as feedstock for the Ballantine’s blend (a trait it shares with the last Distillery Label, Miltonduff, each of whom deserve a better fate).  This bottle was matured in multiple types of sherry casks and threw off some impressive depth of colour for a 10 Year whisky.  It began fairly understated, a careful combo of fruit, spice and herbaceous aromas:  peach iced tea, pepper, wood grain, celery root.  Then things ramped up on the palate, mostly thanks to the Glenburgie’s honeyed and almost waxy texture, mouth-coating even at 40% abv and bolstering more intense flavours of sweet orange Lifesavers, almond brittle, celery and peanut butter (together), sultana crackers and anise.  I don’t think this is a scotch I’m going to remember in two whisky days, but it’s definitely an enjoyable weeknight whisky.  It and Miltonduff are two peas in a pod that way; I could probably do without a third one in 8 more days, but we shall see.








%d bloggers like this: