Regulars to GadgetGuy will recall that we are partial to a wee dram of whisky. This month we feature Allt-a-Bhainne Single Malt Scotch Whisky as it seeks to defy convention hoping to engage a whole new generation of Scotch fans.
This whisky shows a level of ambition – something we see a lot of in tech. But, can a new, tech-driven, style of single malt, find a new generation of whisky drinkers?
Last month we reviewed the Ailsa Bay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. We tested it due to its considerable scientific background and use of tech (a thin excuse to review it – I know). Now that we are reviewing the second bottle of scotch with somewhat less of a tech connection, you might suspect that we are now finding creative ways of drinking on the job.
I assure you that no, we are not closet alcoholics yet but if liquor distributors read this and want reviews, we are happy to start a new GadgetGuy tradition.
Originating from the Speyside region of Scotland, also home to heavy-hitters such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Glen Moray, Allt-A-Bhainne (pronounced olt-a-vane) became part of part of the Chivas Brothers arm of Pernod Ricard in 2001.
The Allt-A-Bhainne distillery is something of a unique beast. Built by Seagram in 1975, this modern and computerised distillery contains all the equipment necessary to make whisky in a single room, designed to be operational by a single person. It is for a single purpose – to supply malt spirits for the Chivas range of blended scotch whiskies.
Recently it has made a heavily-peated single malt for some Chivas Regal blends. This smoky whisky is something unusual compared to the typically fruity sweetness the Speyside whiskies are known for.
Recognising the soaring market for single malts, Pernod Ricard has chosen to bottle and distribute this Allt-A-Bhainne single malt hoping it will be enough to crack a whole new market of rebellious scotch fans searching for new experiences. That magic experience? The perfect balance between smoke and sweet.
I said it in my last scotch review I do not possess a professionally trained palate. I drank this scotch on the rocks, and my notes below reflect this.
Let’s start with a quote from Richard Clark, Allt-A-Bhainne master distiller:
“We know that whisky drinkers have evolved. They are becoming more adventurous with their repertoire and want to try something new. That is why we’ve decided now is the perfect time to launch Allt-A-Bhainne. Convention said we shouldn’t mix peat with Speyside and that smokiness and sweetness wouldn’t work together. But we followed our nose, distilled the whisky in the way we know and trust, and Allt-A-Bhainne is the result.”
To the nose, it has a sweet aroma, with a little hint of spice and vanilla. It is aromatic without the harsh, sterile edge present on some other whiskies.
Upon tasting, the smoke in Allt-A-Bhainne is very subtle. You can detect it there, but it quickly dissipates into a subtle fruitiness with hints of vanilla and honey before rounding out with a subtle smoky, spicy finish.
The bottle claims it has ‘just enough peat to start a fire’ and I agree. Although it maybe the 40% alcohol that does that. The smoke in here is not overpowering to the senses – it strikes a balance nicely,carried through to finish with the sweeter notes. It is a very smooth and enjoyable glass of whisky.
The official tasting summary:
“A smoky malt and a prickle of white pepper spice blend with toffee apples, buttery pastry, a hint of heather and toasted oak. On the palate butterscotch, roasted apricot and honey provide sweetness among gingerbread and cinnamon spice and earthy peat. A long finish has plenty of drying smoke and fizzing spice.”
Packaging and presentation
Allt-A-Bhainne’s bottle was designed to reference the 70’s style of the distillery. It comes in a wide-necked, rounded rectangle glass bottle complete with a cork stopper. The branding is an eye-catching typeface and a small label explaining the rebellious origins of the product.
Maybe it’s my youth that betrays me here, but I don’t seethe 70’s inspiration. The distillery itself is a very square, blocky building which is what I imagine is the source of the reference.
On the contrary, I think it looks clean and modern. It is a nice, hefty bottle, and something I would happily display on a liquor shelf or cabinet. An associate saw this bottle and wants to try it based on appearances alone. It looks appealing and premium. I would call that a win.
It is well balanced, and something I could see myself ordering throughout the evening at a bar, very smooth and pleasant to drink. Will it break the dam for a whole new generation of single malt drinkers? I do not know about that.
The holy grail quest for the perfect mix of sweet and smoke seems to be popping up a lot in the market right now. And in that arena, I think that this is a truly solid entry, but unlikely to change the way you think about scotch.
The only way to know is to try, and I would suggest you try this. Regardless of whether you are a fan of single malts looking for new experiences, or you’re just starting to explore peated whiskies, this is a solid place to start.
Allt-A-Bhainne is available from Liquorland for $80.
Value for Money
Reader Rating4 Votes
Excellent mix between sweet and smoke
Premium bottle looks and feels great
Ambitions to get a new generation of whisky drinkers might be a little lofty