Blog: The Importance of Casks in Creating White Heather

At The GlenAllachie Distillery, we believe that the quality of the casks used is paramount in creating an incredible tasting whisky. With tens of thousands of pounds spent on casks alone, we put the quality of our liquid above anything else.

Intense wood management is what adds complexity to the flavour profile of White Heather, which is why Master Blender, Billy Walker, uses his expansive network of global contacts built over his half-century long tenure in whisky to source the finest wood for maturation. Being a qualified chemist, he has a deeper understanding of flavour compounds and chemical components. He uses this advanced knowledge to determine which barrels will enhance the flavour profiles of our liquid and give each expression its unique taste. After all, an expertly crafted blended Scotch whisky can rival some of the best single malts. Billy Walker states that “Ultra-aged blends are infinitely more complicated than single malts. What we’re doing with White Heather is very exciting because I believe there’s a new, revived energy for Blended Scotch”, which is shown in the cask make up of both expressions in our portfolio.

During secondary maturation, as the blend of whiskies marry and settle together, they also interact with the richly seasoned and charred wood, which in turn creates the elaborate flavour profile of each expression. This complex dual maturation process gives White Heather its unique and rare character.

Casks

 

The whiskies used in White Heather 15-year-old began their journey in American Ex-Bourbon and Spanish Sherry casks. Bourbon is a barrel-aged American Whiskey that must contain at least 51% of corn in the mash. These come from the region of Kentucky, USAnd offer flavours of vanilla, honey, caramel, oak and leather. Whereas Spanish Sherry casks are marked by dried fruits so give the tones of nuts, almonds, figs and grapes. After careful craftsmanship, the spirits were expertly blended and then re-racked into Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso puncheons, as well as American virgin oak casks for secondary maturation.

You might be wondering what these different types of casks mean, and where they have come from. Pedro Ximénez is a rich, sweet style of Sherry from Jerez, Spain. It will typically offer a flavour contribution of fig, date, honey, toffee, coffee and dark chocolate. Whereas Oloroso, also from the region of Jerez, Spain, offers a drier, darker style of Sherry. This differs to Pedro Ximénez due to the type of grape that the Sherry was made from. The Oloroso comes from Palomino grapes which have undergone oxidative ageing, compared to Pedro Ximénez which has been made from an overly ripe grape of the same name. Therefore, the contributions differ as Oloroso delivers qualities of walnut, balsamic, raisin and tobacco. The virgin oak casks offer tannins of vanilla, soft honey and warm spice.

These casks when combined, create the taste of treacle, heather honey and butterscotch, alongside orange peel, grapefruit and almonds, with mocha, ginger and a light wisp of peaty smoke to finish on White Heather 15-year-old.

Following a similar structure, White Heather 21-year-old took on second maturation in specially selected Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso puncheons, as well as in Appalachian virgin oak casks. The Appalachian virgin oak, like American virgin oak, gives attributes of vanilla, but when medium toasted, offers spicy cinnamon, with coconut, ginger, honey and butterscotch.

This then gives the taste of heather honey, butterscotch, orange peel and soft tannins, all in balance with a wonderful presence of smoke.

White Heather 21-year-old

 

The vigorous attention to detail shown through the management of casks helps to create the top level liquid in White Heather, and offers something truly special.