The GlenAllachie Distillery recently added three new bottlings to their Virgin Oak Series, a limited-edition range of whisky aged in a variety of different oak from around the world.
The three new Speyside single malts are a 15-year-old Scottish Virgin Oak Finish, a 10-year-old French Virgin Oak Finish, and a 10-year-old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish.
The flavor differences between the three come from the different oak species, the local terroir where the trees are grown, and the period of natural air drying, along with the toasting, charring and coopering of the casks.
The Virgin Oak Series is born out of what’s described as the cask sourcing and wood management skills of Master Distiller Billy Walker, who this year celebrates a half-century as a blender and distiller in the Scotch whisky industry.
Each of the Virgin Oak expressions was first matured in American Oak (Quercus Alba) ex-bourbon barrels. The whisky was then aged another 18 months in virgin oak casks, all selected by Walker.
The 15-year-old Scottish Virgin Oak (UK retail price £175) is one of the few whiskies to ever be matured in Scottish oak and was finished in casks made of Sessile Oak (Quercus Petraea) sourced from the Atlantic coast of Scotland.
Scottish oak is said to be challenging to work with at all stages of production; growing, milling, and coopering. Its rarity, costliness and tendency to knot has led to it rarely being used for whisky maturation.
Distiller’s notes show that before it got the GlenAllachie spirit, the wood was air dried for 36 months, opening up the oak for maximum flavor extraction. After toasting and charring to a medium level, the small quantity of casks delivered 2,250 bottles.
For the 10-year-old French Virgin Oak Finish (UK retail price £61.99), Walker sourced casks made of French Oak (Quercus Robur) from the Haute-Garonne region, near the Pyrenees. The fine-grained, consistent wood was air dried for 15 months before being filled with the whisky. The result is a subtly sweet yet earthy malt.
The 10-year-old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish (UK retail price £61.99) used wood from the Northern Ozark region of Missouri in the United States. Once air dried for nearly four years and toasted to a medium level, the casks made of Chinquapin – a sub species of Quercus Alba – have lent spicy, biscuity notes to The GlenAllachie.
The three whiskies were bottled at their natural color, non-chill filtered, and clock in at 48% ABV.
“Exploring the interaction of virgin oak with our whisky has become a real passion of mine over the last few years, and I feel it’s something that we are really specializing in,” Master Distiller Walker said in a prepared statement. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I am devoted to wood management and sourcing unusual casks, but I believe virgin oak is underexposed in the Scotch whisky industry; something we are eager to change.
Distiller’s notes for the three Virgin Oak Series expressions:
The GlenAllachie 15-year-old Scottish Virgin Oak Finish
- Color: Golden sunset.
- Nose: Aromas of honeycomb, vanilla pods and citrus fruits, with butterscotch, orange zest and white chocolate.
- Taste: Lashings of heather honey, caramelized pine nuts, cinnamon and toffee, followed by orange peel, lemon zest, banana and ginger.
The GlenAllachie 10-year-old French Virgin Oak Finish
- Color: Golden bronze.
- Nose: Waves of orange peel, heather honey and soft spice, followed by caramel, orchard fruits and mocha.
- Taste: Layers of heather honey, mocha and brittle toffee, with grapefruit, cinnamon, earthy tannins and notes of ginger on the finish.
The GlenAllachie 10-year-old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish
- Color: Rich bronze.
- Nose: Bursting with orange zest, heather honey and pecan, with notes of butterscotch, nutmeg and liquorice.
- Taste: Lashings of cinnamon, barley sugar and toasted biscuits, followed by rose hips, orange peel and heather honey.
For more information on the distillery or the Virgin Oak series, check out www.theglenallachie.com
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