A 7 yo single malt from a no-name distillery that’s been bottled at >60% abv? Normally that would send chills up my spine. The only saving grace here is that it’s not virgin oak or even first-fill bourbon—or a raw sherry bomb for that matter. Well, I’m assuming it won’t be raw. Allt-a-Bhainne is not the most storied distillery, and it’s not a distillery I have very much experience with but I’ve always found it interesting even as I’ve not developed any real sense of what its profile might be like. On that informational note, let’s get to this SMWS cask which the brain trust at the Society dubbed “Seductive sweetness and smooth smoke”. It’s not every day that I drink a whisky whose name contains not one but two of my old stripper names. Should be special.
Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 (60.8%; SMWS 108.23; second-fill ex-bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rather closed at first—unsurprising given the strength. Then there’s a bit of candied lemon and some oak and subtle malty/cereal sweetness. A bit of incense in the distance as it sits. With more time there’s a herbal/rooty note as well and a bit of anise. With water it’s the same as before but a bit more intense and a bit more integrated. Some wet wool in there too now.
Palate: Comes in hot but approachable. Wood is the top note here but it’s not tannic or raw. An indistinct sweetness as well and then spicier as I swallow. Decent texture. Some bitterness develops as it sits—again of the herbal/rooty nature. A bit of menthol smoke in the background. Okay, let’s see what water does. Well, it makes it more approachable on the alcohol burn front but I can’t say it brings out anything very new—maybe a bit of wood smoke.
Finish: Medium-long. The spicy note is the main thing here with some talcum powder emerging late. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is an example of a whisky profile that I would say is not one I like per se but which I find quite interesting. It is idiosyncratic and austere and if it’s not something that has qualities that would make me reach for it on most nights, there’s also no denying that it holds my interest. I might overrate it a bit for that reason but I will also point out that none of its idiosyncrasies tip over into becoming flaws.
Rating: 84 points.
Thanks for the review! Enough flavor notes that I don’t care for that I will leave this one on the shelf — if I ever see it.
Well, you won’t see this one on the shelf. It was only available through the SMWS.
And if you do see other Allt-a-Bhainnes you should known that not all have this character.
I failed to note in my introduction that I have reviewed another Allt-a-Bhainne 7, 2011 from the SMWS that was also a second-fill bourbon barrel bottled at a stupid strength. I failed to note this because I had no memory of having reviewed that whisky—which says less about the whisky than about my addled state.
Anyway, I gave that one the same score and found it to also be somewhat offbeat, though not identical to this one.