"Having long been possessed with an ardent desire to see the Distilleries of Scotland...", Alfred Barnard, 1885

"O Thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink", from Scotch Drink, by Robert Burns

Monday, 30 April 2012

Glenallachie Distillery, near Aberlour

If you continue up the Burn of Aberlour about a mile from Aberlour Distillery you arrive at the small hamlet of Cottartown and beyond it the Daugh of Ruthrie rising south towards Ben Rinnes.  Glenallachie Distillery sits at the bottom of a narrow valley between the two, one of around 10-12 new distilleries that were built across Scotland in the 1960s to meet rising demand and to make best use of modern techniques, design and equipment.

Glenallachie Distillery
Glenallachie opened in 1967 and it is now one of Chivas Brothers workhorse distilleries producing mostly for blends.   It is not open to the public and there are no unnecessary pretentions to history displayed here, the buildings bright but functional.  Large bonded warehouses stretch away to the west of the distillery, hidden in a tree lined valley that is surrounded by fields of grain.  There are 14 warehouses in total, 12 racked and 2 palletised.

The distillery was founded by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries subsidiary Mackinlay, McPherson & Co, who already owned Jura distillery, and they ran it until they were sold to Invergordon Distillers in 1985.  Whereas Jura continued to operate throughout the following years, Glenallachie was closed in 1987 for two years until it was sold to Pernod Ricard subsidiary Campbell Distillers, already the owners of Aberlour Distillery just down the road.  They increased the number of stills from 2 to 4 and restarted production in 1989, the distillery being branded as the Home of Clan Campbell whisky.

The Home of Clan Campbell whisky
Glenallachie’s location takes advantage of the pure spring water that rises on Ben Rinnes, the Henheads and Blackstank burns being their sources, both rising far up on the northeast face of the mountain before they flow into the Burn of Aberlour.  The malt is unpeated and most production is matured in bourbon casks with some Oloroso butts also filled.

Internally the distillery has a stainless steel semi-lauter tun, 6 washbacks that are stainless steel lined colclad and the two pairs of stills.  Unusually (uniquely?) the condensers are placed horizontally rather than the normal vertical alignment.  They have capacity to produce 3m litres p.a. which places it mid-table by volume in Scotland.

A 16yo CS release by Chivas Brothers in 2005 was the first official bottling released recently and an 18yo from 2008 is also currently available from them, both produced from spirit distilled in that first year of reopening and matured exclusively in first-fill Oloroso butts.  A 12yo was previously available in the 1980s and there are very occasional independent releases.

Distillery data courtesy of Chivas Brothers and ownership details from the Malt Whisky Yearbook.