Speyside Road Trip Day 2, Part 1: Glenallachie & Strathisla

We walked from Aberlour to Glenallachie.

Then we arrived at Glenallachie, look.

I got a bottle there.

And how about Strathisla. How about it.

OK, so the above was just the template text I used while we were arranging the photos, but my wife remarked that it was an accurate and succinct description, so I decided to leave it as is. Here’s the longer version:

The scheduled activity of the day was a tour at Knockdhu at 2pm, so we decided to walk to Glenallachie in the morning and then see if any time was left after the tour in the afternoon for more distillery visits. There were no plans at Glenallachie, it was mostly so we can walk along the stream and see Linn Falls (the overall whisky plan was to see what distillery exclusives were available at nearby Aberlour and Glenallachie first, so I can potentially come back to them at the end of the trip after excursions to further distilleries). The stream passes right by Aberlour and it’s a very pleasant 40-ish minute walk in the woods to Glenallachie (if you’re in a hurry, it’s just 1 mile on the main road). As you can see in the photos, the walk didn’t disappoint.

The shop at Glenallachie is small like Aberlour’s, but seems to pack more whisky, including two casks for visitors to bottle, and less paraphernalia. There was (probably still is, it was only two weeks ago) a 9 year-old from a Languedoc red wine cask for £91, and a 15 year-old peated Bourbon cask for £150. Not exactly great value, but I was offered samples of both and I was quite impressed. The peated Bourbon was beyond my budget, but I was surprised by how much I liked the red wine cask – normally I dislike overly tannic or ‘winey’ whiskies, but this was sweet and very fruity with none of the cloying or unbalanced notes I was expecting. If it was better value I would’ve bought it on the spot, but as it was I decided to file it as a ‘maybe later’, depending on how much whisky I bought elsewhere (Spoilers: as you can see in the photos, we returned on the last day and bought it. I got bottle 11, with the first bottle going to Billy Walker himself).

We walked back to our house through the forest for lunch before going to the Knockdhu tour, which will get its own post soon. We spent a good hour and a half at Knockdhu, and then decided to drive to Keith and drop by Strathisla before closing time. That was one of the rare occasions where our photos did the place justice, it is indeed an absolutely beautiful distillery. There were various tastings going on in the lounge, but we were made to feel very welcome by [insert name here]* at the shop. It was very well-stocked, with 50cl bottles from various distilleries in the Chivas portfolio – so not just Strathisla, but also Allt-a-Bhainne, Miltonduff, Scapa, Caperdonich and Glentauchers.

I tried a 16 year-old Strathisla from a Bourbon cask, and was absolutely blown away. I don’t know if it was because I was already in a good mood after the Knockdhu tour, but that Strathisla immediately jumped to the top of all the distillery exclusives I’d tried so far. Unfortunately, it was £85, which isn’t that good for a 50cl bottle so I exercised an amazing amount of restraint given all the whisky I’d already consumed and (very reluctantly, it was spectacularly fruity and fragrant) passed on it. If it was a full-size bottle I’d have definitely gone for that over the Glenallachie, but as it was I was very happy to return to Glenallachie two days later to pick up that 2012 Languedoc cask. I was also offered an 11 year-old Miltonduff – much more affordable at £55, but sadly much more ordinary than the Strathisla as well (still better than the Aberlour distillery exclusive, mind you).

Hopefully I’ll return to Strathisla for a more extensive tasting when I have a bigger wallet – it’s a pity there’s such a dearth of official Strathisla in the shops, because they produce some great whisky. Next up – Knockdhu from the same day.

*In hindsight I should’ve asked people for their names, because as it is it will probably emerge that [insert name here] is the most popular name in Scotland.

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