Lesser Known Distilleries Can Offer You Great Whiskies Too!
Whilst I started my career in whisky with William Grant & Sons, one of the advantages of working for a smaller independent bottler is that at work I get to sample whiskies from almost every distillery in Scotland. I'm not saying that the big companies don't make good whisky, (think of all those luscious, honeyed Balvenies), rather that lesser known ones make good whisky as well. In this Blog I am going to introduce you to some distilleries that are not so well known, but still can provide you with wonderful drinking experiences.
The first distillery that I'm going to introduce is Glentauchers. It is owned by Pernod Ricard, and the only way to get an official bottling, is to visit one of their visitor centres, where you might be able to find a 15-year-old single first fill barrel. This is the only official bottling available. The distillery is fairly unique, in that most of the process is done using traditional mechanical methods. Most distilleries nowadays are highly computerised, and the thinking behind this for Glentauchers, is that trainees and new employees can be sent to learn the basic techniques of whisky production. It is a key component in all the Ballantine's expressions
Their whiskies can have a lovely, buttery feel on your palate, with some soft toffee and barley sugar notes. Most will have lively citrus notes with bags of fruit and the malty biscuit notes can shine throughout.
My next distillery is Ardmore. This is a bit different as a whisky compared to others of the region. It is just outside of the Speyside region and is classed as a Highland malt. The difference is that it is traditionally a peated spirit. For many years it was part of Teachers, and they did not own an Islay or west coast distillery and needed the Ardmore peated spirit for their blends. There are official bottlings, the Legacy and a Portwood finish, both NAS.
The peat that they use is very different from an Islay. It does not give that salty, medicinal flavour to the whisky, rather it is much drier and woodier. Think of campfire embers. They can be quite fruity and gingery. Smoked berries and peaches!
Glenallachie has been in the news recently, due to it being taken over from Pernod by a consortium led by Billy Walker. For many years there was no official bottling from the distillery, but in 2017, a Distillery Edition appeared. This was a bit of a surprise, as the distillery changed hands soon after. It is a fairly young distillery, only being built in 1967. It is a key component of Clan Campbell, one of Pernod's top selling blends in France, providing light fruity top notes to the blend.
With most bourbon cask bottlings, expect to get light lemony fruit. From a sherry cask expression more heavy caramel, chocolate or cappuccino flavours can emerge.
The last distillery that I am going to highlight is Glencadam. This is part of Angus Dundee, and is one of the last of the active distilleries in Angus. With 46% strength and non-chill filtered bottlings, you need a classy spirit, and to me Glencadam does this well.
Their 10 year old is a bottle that everyone should have. It is clean fresh and honestly malty. The barley comes shining through with a delicate floral apple nose. It is a whisky that puts many more famous to shame and does not need any marketing hype. Good honest spirit will always win out!
I hope that this will encourage you to broaden your horizons.