Billy Walker, Managing director and master distiller at The GlenAllachie Distillery discusses his life and career with SLTN
Q: Which brands do you produce?
A: GlenAllachie Speyside single malt Scotch whisky and MacNair’s blended malt Scotch whisky.
Q: Where do you work?
A: GlenAllachie is located at the foot of Ben Rinnes in the heart of Speyside – Aberlour.
Q: How long have you worked there?
A: We started working on the brand on day one of our acquisition in October 2017. The challenge was to understand the true DNA of GlenAllachie and assess each individual cask.
Q: What’s a typical working day like?
A: Constant focus on checking and evaluating the progress of our new and mature spirit. 100 to 150 casks per week.
Q: Describe the production process.
A: The overall process is similar to many of our peers, but with some significant nuances. For example, we have the capacity to produce four million litres of alcohol (LOA) but we immediately reduced this to 800,000 LOA. By slowing down production, it gave us the luxury of time for a longer fermentation of 160 hours. This allowed us to better understand the operations at the distillery and gives us the time to discover the character of the new make spirit. Our still house has two separate spirit safes, which allows us to operate each set of stills independently. As the distillery was designed to be gravity-fed, we also have horizontal condensers that make it easier to maintain a consistent temperature, or increase/decrease to alter the character of the spirit. We are introducing various yeast top dressings and we have introduced a peated campaign. We also have a very exciting and imaginative wood management programme.
Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your products.
A: GlenAllachie has butterscotch, honey, bananas, raisins, sweet spices, dark chocolate and mocha. MacNair’s has peat reek, vanilla, sweet spices, butterscotch, toffee, bog myrtle and honey.
Q: What would you say sets your products apart?
A: Acquiring a distillery which has existed under the radar has meant we have a blank canvas to play with. As a ‘newcomer’ we have an incredible range and depth of inventory and are working to bring some unique releases with a twist.
Q: What one fact should bartenders know about your brand?
A: We are one of the few independently-owned and managed Scotch whisky companies in the industry.
Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?
A: In truth, this doesn’t qualify to be a job – it is an obsession. Working with the GlenAllachie spirit and creating new releases is unbelievably fulfilling.
Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your product?
A: Neat and at ambient temperature.
Q: What’s your career highlight so far?
A: I think that we would reflect that we did a great job with BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, but there’s a real excitement about where we can take the GlenAllachie, MacNair’s and White Heather brands.
Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?
A: There are too many to embarrass, but Jim Beveridge, Richard Paterson and Stephanie Macleod are right up there with the best.