Glenallachie 18 years, 57.1%

The wonderful joy of whisky is that there’s always a dram out there for everyone. In fact that’s not the joy of whisky, the joy is finding your dream dram (say that 10 times without tripping up!). I’m of course still on that hunt, and on my way I came across this little gem. I’m a bit like an old record I think, I love going back to those cask strength beauties, especially those that you can’t typically buy.

Glenallachie is another distillery tucked away in the heart of Speyside, and it’s another one of those Chivas Brothers artisan bottles that you can only get from the distillery doors.

As you will be well aware now, cask strength whisky has a kick to it, but it’s always good to have a go before you water it down just so you can get a feel for it – but be careful; if you stick your nose straight in you’ll get nothing but a high alcohol burn which can ruin the whole experience. Wave the top your glass near the end of your nose and let the aromas come to you. One you feel acclimatised to it, slowly, dive in.

The nose is rich and hits you first with polished wood and sawdust with brown sauce spice powering through the middle. Drifting over the top is fresh lime juice, but as quickly as it comes it disappears to be replaced by bitter chocolate and Turkish delight. After a while a creamy saltiness like a soft cheese rind sits over the top. As you can imagine the palate has a jaggy edge from the high alcohol, but once that leaves you catch a salty dry feeling with the taste of cold beach pebbles. Dry oranges and cherries also become quite pronounced.

So, when the water went in the nose instantly freshened-up with orange rind, sweet lemon, and flowerbed earth under hot sun. There’s also creamy porridge, milk chocolate, and the spiciness from earlier but much softer and sweeter and taking more of a back seat to the other aromas. Just as I thought it was all over there was a sudden wave of green woodland and dead pine needles covering a forest path. On the palate the pebbles were still there but they had warmed up, as had the salty texture. The finish was long and dry, with a touch of Mediterranean herbs and oil.

This one is a bit of a balancing act. It’s massively complex with deep flavours, but I found that there was a knack to getting the water right. It is such a fine line that even a few ml too much or too little left it wanting. Although, when you get it right it’s a lovely dram that has you deep in thought as your mind wanders off to the horizon – just be sure that it comes back in time for tea.