A Best-Ever Rendition of an Oft-Overlooked Single Malt
Allt-a-Bhainne 23 Year Old “Old Particular” KL Exclusive Single Refill Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml). ($119.99)
“If you’re going to ever try an Allt-A-Bhainne this is one of the best we’ll ever have.”
— David Othenin-Girard, KL SoCal Spirits Buyer
While the name Allt-a-Bhainne might be unfamiliar to many, there are plenty of reasons it should make the shortlist for any and every Scotch drinker. This delightful 23-year-old rendition is among the best we’ve had, delivering a malt-forward experience that’s engaging from start to end. Its time in barrel has done wonders for this single malt, adding a compelling array of vanilla and woodsy flavors that act as a perfect counterpoint to this dram’s citrus and grassy flavors. There’s no mistaking its Speyside roots, and it is one of the finer examples we’ve encountered this season. Given its impressive age statement, we’d normally expect to pay upwards of $300 for a whisky of this caliber, but as part of our direct-import program, we have it for a mere fraction of that. We’ve seen no shortage of excellent Scotches this season, but for those looking to branch out and experience something new, this cask strength blockbuster is well worth the price of admission.
A workhorse distillery in Speyside, Allt-a-Bhainne was originally built in 1975 to produce a light and fruity malt for Seagram’s blending purposes. In 2001 the distillery was acquired by Pernod Ricard and folded into the Chivas portfolio. Mothballed for a time in the early 2000s after the sale, the distillery has been operating at full capacity since 2005 as we’ve seen everything about Scotch boom. Distilled in 1995, this cask comes from the era when Seagram’s was operating at the top of their game as the largest beverage company in the world, shortly before they imploded. Despite its 23 years in a refill hogshead cask, it’s a very malt-forward spirit. The bright fruit and gentle malt notes take over the glass. It’s on the palate where the extended aging really shows. A broad and luscious texture is the giveaway. In the 2019 whisky landscape, it can be hard to find an 18 year old Scotch at this price point, let alone a 23 year old single cask at full strength.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 22, 2019
There’s no question that this malt will be the sleeper of the season. Allt-A-Bhainne has no particular following and even the most experienced single malt drinker would be hard pressed to give you an intelligent explanation of the distillery profile. So since it’s just a bit more expensive than the rest of the offer and maybe less obvious, it will be overlooked by many. Nonetheless there’s a lot to love about this little whisky. The style is very pretty—unlike some versions of Allt-A which can be funky and mealy, this is like pure Poire Williams eau-de-vie. Pointed and angular in the best way, it’s also showing some herbs, lemon peel, quince and grass. On the palate, it’s medium bodied with clean crystal malt and some pepper, but after water it really opens up. Bright stone fruit, mint, sweet grains, green apples and pastries. If you’re going to ever try an Allt-A-Bhainne, this is one of the best we’ll ever have.
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 23, 2019
Light, bright, and fruity! Allt-A-Bhainne is part of the foundation of the Chivas Regal blend, but it really shines on its own. This Speyside single malt is quite estery with tons of fresh aromas and flavors. Lemonhead candies, peach, and cherry hit me first, followed by some buttery vanilla wafer cookies and clove. There’s also some nice pine forest notes in the background. On the palate, spice cuts through the fruit and comes in waves, combining with a cocoa element that reminds me of mole chocolate. There’s great oak, cedar, and pine wood flavors that blend nicely with the bolder spice, then cooling menthol.
Jackson Lee | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 21, 2019
Baked green apples wafted from the glass as I gave it time to rest in the glass before delving in. Upon closer inspection I discovered sweet notes of treacle toffee and peach skin, which was complemented nicely by a freshness, like pool water, but slightly less chemical. The palate continued with the sweet theme, with pencil shavings, cocoa powder, white nectarine, jasmine tea, and salt water taffy. The texture was soft, not quite oily, but most definitely pleasant. On the finish the sweet note finally made its exit, while leaving way for a fresh apricot note; too easy to drink.
Jeffrey Jones | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2019
This 23 year old is alive and expressive. The nose is very pretty with sweet honey and malt aromas. In the mouth it is light with wax, malt and subtle spice notes. With water, in the mouth it is pure with the same flavors as above but they are more subtle and complex. There is also a wonderfully nice mouth feel and in the nose pretty wax aromas.