Whilst the 2018 Spirit of Speyside Festival has been and gone, there’s still a few signs of its presence here – the roadside banners have yet to be removed, and many a bar person is looking like they need a short break to recover. There are also still a few of the Spirt of Speyside bottlings lurking at distillery shops and local retailers - the last drops of limited edition liquid awaiting those willing to take a punt on what is oft-times rather a stab in the dark at a single cask which may or may turn out to be notable.
2018’s deluge of festival bottlings (there seems to be more and more every year), includes something which caught my eye more than most – the first festival bottling produced by GlenAllachie under Billy Walker’s stewardship. The bottling is a 12 year old distilled on 19th April 2006 from cask number 897. It is bottled at 58.9% and costs £56 for a 50cl.
Nose: Pronounced juicy stone fruits – apricots, peaches and slight nectarines – are further sweetened by honey and a delicate touch of milk chocolate. There’s a touch of Victoria sponge cake and golden malts as well as some gentle, but discernible white pepper and heathery florals. The addition of water emphasises cocoa and fresh coffee beans, as well as fresh golden tobacco leaf and vanilla.
Taste: Arriving richly and with an oily syrupy texture that proves to be quite mouth coating. Fruits are part stone, but now much more berry-driven: raspberries, redcurrants, cranberries – mainly fresh and lively, but with some jammy undertones here and there. Chocolate and coffee (grounds now) make an appearance again, and are joined by some underlying minerals – wet granite. After a period of resting (not too long needed), more tropical fruit comes to the fore – mangoes, foam bananas – all slightly sticky and sweet. The mid and back palate are much more cask-forward, with pepperiness increasing throughout. A few drops of water adds orange juice, it also further emphasises the cask adding planed wood and quite a lot of astringency.
Finish: Medium and packed full of peppery spice. Light vanilla and fresh woodiness are also along for the ride and make for a very dry finish.
The GlenAllachie Spirit of Speyside 2018 Festival bottling is a fresh, bold, fruit-forward whisky with some really punchy spices which lurk until the mid/back palate and finish and then really take hold. There’s a lot of grippy tannins here, which won’t be to everyone’s taste and indeed are heightened further with dilution. However, the fruit selection here is quite excellent, with stone-fruits, berry-fruits and tropical-fruits all part of a varied fruit-salad medley. The whisky is quite drinkable at 58.9% and to my taste at its best in this natural form.