Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Review - Glenallachie Virgin Oak Finish Series

These three whiskies are first in a new series of limited edition single malts from the Speyside distillery of Glenallachie that will form The Virgin Oak Finish Series - the Glenallachie Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish, the French Virgin Oak Finish and the Spanish Virgin Oak Finish. Each whisky has first been matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels before being transferred for a short period to the three different virgin oak casks. All are released at 12 years of age.

The Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish showcases Chinquapin oak, a sub-species of American oak. This was sourced from the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and air dried for four years before being coopered in to casks. The French Virgin Oak Finish uses casks made of French oak sourced from the Haute-Garonne region in the Pyrennes. The staves were air dried for 15 months before coopering. The Spanish Virgin Oak Finish features casks made from Spanish oak sourced from the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. These were air dried for 18 months prior to coopering. 

The three whiskies are all bottled at 48% ABV and are non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There are just 6,500 bottles of each Virgin Oak Finish available and these can be purchased through specialist whisky retailers in selected world markets. All variants will cost £60/ $78 US per bottle.

Our tasting notes

Glenallachie Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish

The colour is golden yellow and the nose has a candied and sweet aroma - think of honey, vanilla, white chocolate and marshmallow with plenty of fresh sawn oak and baking spices such as cinnamon and all-spice coming through later. 

On the palate this whisky has an immediately sweet feel. Think again of the marshmallow, white chocolate and honey from the nose, plus a hint of cream soda. Then comes a distinct vanilla note, along with warming baking spices - imagine cinnamon, all-spice, clove and a pinch of white pepper. A further pinch of cocoa, plus a hint of gingerbread also comes through. Late notes of freshly sawn oak and coconut round things off nicely. The finish is of decent length and becomes increasingly dry and woody with the white pepper note coming through strongly.

Glenallachie French Virgin Oak Finish

The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose has a distinct initial aroma of beeswax furniture polish. Underneath this are further aromas of golden syrup, brown sugar, milk chocolate and hints of burnt caramel and coffee grounds.

On the palate this whisky has a rich sweetness, which works in partnership with distinct savoury and woody notes. Think of golden syrup, canned peach and honey with a hint of milk chocolate or drinking chocolate powder for the sweetness. Think of old furniture, that beeswax polish again and then increasingly heavy wood spices (especially cedar and sandalwood). These combine nicely with warming baking spices such as ginger, five spice and cinnamon. These threaten to overpower the sweeter characteristics on the finish but give good depth, woody dryness and longevity.

Glenallachie Spanish Virgin Oak Finish 

The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose has a delicious mix of sweet and woody aromas. Vanilla, honey and coconut combine with toasted oat, almond and a pinch of cinnamon spice. Underneath is dried apple, gingerbread and a hint of candied lemon.

On the palate this whisky has an immediate dusty and woody feel - think of old wood shavings, toasted almonds, cinnamon and a touch of cedarwood and hint of cigar box. Then comes a juicy sweetness that combines brown sugar, sultana, fruit syrup, honey and vanilla pod. A hint of dessicated coconut and a pinch of white pepper add depth. Underneath sits a biscuit-like note that is reminiscent of oat cookies. The finish is of good length and has a warming feel. The pleasant wood spices dominate and are joined by a delicious background nuttiness and a faint note of roasted coffee beans.

What's the verdict?

Well this is a very interesting set of whiskies from Glenallachie and one that shows off their increasing innovation. It is intriguing to see how the same single malt goes in differing directions with a finishing period in different virgin oak casks. The differences are pronounced and it will also be interesting to see what other additions may join the range down the line. 

Which is our favourite? That is a tough to answer as they are all good, but in different ways. But if we had to choose one then it would be the Spanish Virgin Oak Finish. It is simply sublime.

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