Boring no more; Allt-a-Bhainne
Allt-a-Bhainne (pronounced ‘Alta-vane‘ – Scots Gaelic for burn of milk) is one of those whisky distilleries you never really hear of. Situated in Glenrinnes, which is 4 miles south west of Dufftown. This distillery was built in 1975 by Seagrams. It was designed for the whole operation to be ran by one person. The current owners are Pernod Ricard, and they use this whisky for blends. Almost 100% of this whisky is used for blending, with only a few independent bottlings, but only recently has its own single malt been released. There are no warehouses on site, but all the product is tankered by road to Keith for maturation. The water source comes from springs around the foot of Benrinnes, and the cooling water comes from Main Burn.
Allt-a-Bhainne is a non-age statement whisky.
Smokey, Malt, Toffee Apple, Pepper
Butterscotch, honey. Quite a bit of sweetness. Spicy too, perhaps cinnamon? Very light smoke / peat.
Quite spicy on the finish, with the smoke note continuing. Medium to long finish.
This sample was taken during a visit to the Pot Still in Glasgow. A bar that specialises in whiskies, there are over 700 on offer, yet I chose this one. Why? I do have a bottle myself, but as the first official release, I’m keeping it sealed and could not justify opening it. You see, Allt-a-Bhainne has a reputation as not a great whisky. You could call it blending fodder; the single malt equivalent of Bells. Not nasty at all, but it has a reputation of blandness, based on the few independent bottles available.
Pernod Ricard must have realised this, and in their marketing blurb, as stated on the bottle “Just enough smoke to start a fire”, have mixed it up a bit by including peated malt to a Speyside whisky. Speyside usually uses low or unpeated malt and Sherry casks for sweetness, so Allt-a-Bhainne is going against the grain of its regional traditions, but it has produced an interesting whisky. I’m not going to say that the smoke produced a roaring fire, but the sweet and smoke went well together in my opinion, with a fizzy spice note in the finish, which would intrigue me to try again.
Not enough to open my bottle though, but certainly enough that if I saw it again in a bar, I’d try another, and would definitely recommend others try it. Without a doubt, its no longer a boring whisky. It may have added colour, it may have been chill filtered, it may only be 40%. abv, but at around £35 a bottle, you won’t go wrong.
Having said that, during a wee bit of price research, at the moment Tesco have it on offer for £22 so perhaps I will maybe get a drinking bottle. If I decide it’s maybe not for me, it will make a good whisky cocktail or to quote Game Of Thrones – Winter Is Coming. It’ll make a change from Famous Grouse in my hot toddy. Mind you, it’s nearly always winter in the Highlands of Scotland!