Malt of the Moment
Allt-á-Bhainne was founded in 1975 by Seagram’s and is an example of a distillery being built purely to supply whisky for various blends. Perched on the slopes of Ben Rinnes,...
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Allt-á-Bhainne was founded in 1975 by Seagram’s and is an example of a distillery being built purely to supply whisky for various blends. Perched on the slopes of Ben Rinnes, it is a distillery that lacks a high profile or an official single malt range of its own. Instead Allt-á-Bhainne is one of many distilleries that form the backbone of recipes for the master blenders who require stock of consistent and reliable quality.
The name Allt-á-Bhainne is Gaelic roughly for burn of milk, which wouldn’t conducive for good whisky but gives some indication that the setting was chosen for particular qualities. This is namely the Scurran and Rowantree burns that provide its water source. Having driven past the distillery, aesthetically it cannot boast a classic appearance despite a glorious setting on the mountain side, but it’s far from the worst offender during the 70’s era of new distilleries. A noticeable attempt has been made to try and echo the influences of the past with fake Pagoda’s offering ventilation and hinting at its purpose.
Originally established to produce whisky for the Chivas Regal range and the popular 100 Pipers blend, Allt-á-Bhainne continues to produce 4 million litres annually with most destined for these international brands. During the last couple of years with the demand for peated whisky at an all-time high, the distillery has turned its hand to producing a peated spirit for Chivas. Traditionally Allt-á-Bhainne produces a non-peated spirit, but has engaged in providing a lightly peated variant for the Chivas blenders.
The distillery was extended in 1989 with the number of stills being doubled to 4, and this allowed all the production equipment to exist within a single room. It was then oddly mothballed in 2002 as the global demand for whisky began to soar, before reopening in just a couple of years later in 2005; no doubt thanks to that increased demand. Since then Allt-á-Bhainne has continued to work away with the only notable change in 2015 when the mash tun was improved to cope with demands of working 7 days a week. Allt-á-Bhainne is not open to the public and is unlikely ever to be so, unless access is granted as part of the annual Spirit of Speyside festival, which has seen Chivas open the locked doors to several of its distilleries.
Allt-á-Bhainne is very much a producer, as the new make spirit is taken off site by tanker to the Chivas complex in Keith, and it’s at this central facility that the spirit is placed into casks to mature. There are no warehouses or maturating of whisky at Allt-á-Bhainne, which is a modern approach when you have a concentration of several facilities within a small area. This keeps costs low and the distillery is extremely efficient despite being built over 40 years ago, as just 2 staff are required to run the facility.
Whilst its name Allt-á-Bhainne may not lend itself to marketing or the formation of a single malt range, its whiskies are widely appreciated and bottled by various independent bottlers. The non-peated variant is light and malty with an oily fruity character. It may not enjoy household recognition or even familiarity with many enthusiasts, but a whisky from Allt-á-Bhainne is well worth seeking out.