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Hungarian Oak amid new additions to Virgin Oaks from GlenAllachie

21/03/2023
The GlenAllachie has introduced three new single malts finished in Scottish, Hungarian and Spanish virgin oak

Independent Scotch whisky distillery The GlenAllachie today reveals a new trio of limited-edition single malts joining its Virgin Oak Series.

The next tranche of whiskies includes the 8-year-old Scottish Virgin Oak Finish (UK RRSP £65.99), the 7-year-old Hungarian Virgin Oak Finish (UK RRSP £62.99) and the 10-year-old Spanish Virgin Oak Finish (UK RRSP £69.99).

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‘Virgin oak’ refers to wood that has not previously been used to age any other wine or spirit; thus, the influence it has on the whisky is that of the oak alone.

The GlenAllachie’s Virgin Oak Series sets out to explore the impact of oak provenance, terroir and genus on flavour development during the whisky maturation process.

The three unusual cask types were adeptly obtained by Scotch whisky industry stalwart Billy Walker who has built a reputation, during his half-century-long career, for peerless wood innovation.

To create the triad of new whiskies, the spirit was first matured in American Oak (Quercus Alba) ex-Bourbon Barrels before undergoing a finishing period of approximately 18 months in the different oak varieties. 

The 8-year-old Scottish Virgin Oak Finish enjoyed secondary ageing in Sessile Oak (Quercus Petraea) sourced from the Atlantic coast of Scotland.

Scottish oak is rarely used for cask production due to its tendency to knot as it grows, creating challenges in crafting staves; its porosity, boosting the chances of leakages; and its pronounced scarcity, commanding an eye-wateringly high price.

Before being filled, the wood was naturally air-dried for 36 months, allowing for further development of flavour characteristics, then toasted and charred to a medium level.

The 7-year-old Hungarian Virgin Oak Finish underwent an 18-month-long stint in Quercus Petraea from the Zemplén forest in the mountains of northeast Hungary.

A highly unusual oak type for Scotch whisky maturation, The GlenAllachie are among the first producers to experiment with the use of virgin Hungarian wood.

The rocky volcanic soil, along with the colder climate and higher altitude in which it grows, means trees in the area grow very slowly, developing tighter grain: a desirable trait for ageing spirit.

The 10-year-old Spanish Virgin Oak Finish used hogsheads made of Quercus Robur from the Spanish Cantabrian mountains with a cool yet humid climate.

The oak was dried in open air for 18 months, then subsequently toasted and charred, to open up the pores for flavour extraction by the whisky.

All three of the single malts were bottled at a high strength of 48% ABV, without added colouring or chill filtration. 

Reflecting on the new product innovations, Walker comments: 

Virgin oak of varying provenance presents endless possibilities to me as a whisky maker. Exploring a variety of oak types, toasting and charring the casks to particular levels, and then closely observing the spirit development over time has been a truly joyful experience.

“These three new bottlings embody the range of flavours offered by oaks of different origins. From the Scottish, expect notes of biscuit, pear and gingerbread; the Hungarian boasts waves of lemon juice, cinnamon and raisins; and the Spanish oak has imparted bursts of toffee sauce and ripe banana. Each is as uniquely enticing as the last.”

The launch coincides with the release of Batch 9 of The GlenAllachie 10-year-old Cask Strength (UK RRSP £68.99); an expression which was previously crowned World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2021 for its fourth iteration. 

With UK RRSPs starting at £62.99, The GlenAllachie’s new Virgin Oak Finishes and the 10-year-old Cask Strength Batch 9 will begin hitting shelves from today, with global specialist retailers receiving stock in the coming weeks.

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