Glenallachie distillery is one of several built across Speyside during the midst of an upsurge in whisky demand across the industry. Glen Keith in 1957 was the first to be built in the region since the Pattison Crash of 1898 and others soon followed such as Allt a’Bhaine and the stunning Tormore, which heralds your arrival into whisky country as your leave Grantown On Spey and head towards Aberlour.
Demand triggers strides towards opening up extra capacity and as many of the distilleries since 1898 had become amalgamated under a collective of corporate ownership, there had not been much investment across the remaining distilleries. Many of these producers had grown old with age and the more logical approach was to build completely new distilleries on different sites, although some existing distilleries such as Aultmore were completely demolished and rebuilt. It’s sad to ponder the loss of such original buildings from the 1890’s by such actions, whilst Aultmore bottling’s today talk about tradition and heritage. Others such as Glendullan in Dufftown, received a completely new building next door to the old distillery and both still stand today, thereby saving some essence of the past.
Fortunately, Glenallachie was a totally new commodity established by a subsidiary of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Limited in 1967. A popular approach during this period of expansion was to design and build functional distilleries that generally did not have the traditional visual aesthetics such as a pagoda, stone walls, or even warehousing on site. This meant that they could be operated by just one or two members of staff, making them extremely efficient. When the whisky downturn arrived towards the 1970’s and subsequent period of overproduction, such streamlined distilleries were kept alive or mothballed. Older more inefficient producers were closed and demolished.
Glenallachie was acquired by the Invergordon Distillers Group in 1985 alongside Jura, but their Speyside purchase was closed in 1987. The Group was going through a period of change and in 1989 Glenallachie was revived by Pernod Ricard. The deal made sense as Ricard was seeking additional resource for its Chivas Regal range and the heart of its whisky operation is near Glenallachie. To assist in this role, changes were made to increase production by doubling the number of stills. Today, its annual output is around £4 million litres destined for Chivas Regal almost exclusively, with just a small amount reaching the independent bottlers.
In fact, if you want to experience a single malt from Glenallachie, then the independent route is your only option today. The distillery has only been granted an occasional official release as part of the Chivas cask strength range and currently this expression is no longer supported. Of all of the distilleries within the Pernod Ricard stable, Glenallachie is arguably the least known and rarest in its purest form. The whisky itself is typical of Speyside with a light creaminess combined with barley notes and spices. The palate features a nuttiness with touches of fruit and crushed almonds accompanied by a weighty body that adds a certain style to proceedings. It certainly is capable of standing on its own two feet as a single malt, it’s just a shame that its owners currently don’t have any plans to exploit such characteristics.