Okay, let’s bring the long run of sherry casks to an end with this Allt-a-Bhainne. It does not, however, bring the shorter run of peated whiskies to an end. Apparently, Allt-a-Bhainne recently became another of the Speyside distilleries that traffics in peated whisky. When exactly this happened I do not know—I stopped following whisky news a long time ago. They’ve released an official NAS peated whisky and it’s been met with very poor reviews. This one—a cask from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society—may not be very much older than the NAS release: it’s 7 years old, which is the kind of age that whisky companies feel very embarrassed about after years and years of trying to convince people that age equals quality. The fact that the SMWS has the decency to mark the age of their cask does not, of course, mean that it’s necessarily any better than the previously mentioned official release. That said, I’ve quite liked the few Allt-a-Bhainnes I’ve reviewed previous to this one though the youngest of those was 16 years old. Let’s see what this is like.
Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (63.8%; SMWS 108.18, second-fill bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Very closed at first, which is no surprise at the stupid strength. A charred note begins to emerge as it sits—fairly meaty. Whatever the source of the peat, it comes across more farmy than phenolic. After a couple of minutes there’s a rubberiness too and then a fair bit of brine. A little softer and sweeter with time (cream) and then again with water (less char and more citronella now).
Palate: Leads with the rubbery peat but it’s relatively mild and the whole is far more approachable than I’d feared at the strength, which I think I’ve mentioned is stupid. The salt pops out here too on the second sip. More oaky bite with time and more rubbery peat. The peat expands with a few drops of water—still rubbery but not offensively so; in fact, it’s sweeter now. With more time the oak gets more talkative and a little too much so (a little too astringent now).
Finish: Medium-long. Not much happening here: charred wood smoke and pepper. I expect it will expand with some water. Longer with water and generally as on the nose.
Comments: Well, whatever the demerits of the peated NAS Allt-a-Bhainne, this is quite decent, especially for a 7 yo. I preferred the palate neat and the nose with water. I don’t know how old their peated stock has gotten but I’d be interested in trying a good 12 yo cask if/when it is available.
Rating: 84 points.