Billy’s big pursuit of perfectly peated Speyside spirit

Billy Walker maintains that The GlenAllachie’s independence has given it ‘complete freedom to make decisions for all the right reasons’.

Independent Scotch whisky distillery The GlenAllachie has launched a new peated single malt Scotch whisky brand – Meikle Tòir.

The launch is the first core release from the Speyside distillery since celebrated Master Distiller Billy Walker took ownership in 2017.

The name itself, Meikle Tòir, translates from the gaelic as ‘big pursuit’, representing Walker and his team’s dedicated work on the peated brand, which began back in 2018.

Billy noted that The GlenAllachie’s independence had allowed him and his team ‘complete freedom to make decisions for all the right reasons’, and to firmly place the focus on quality over quantity.

Of course, his first big decision was to make a peated spirit at all, as it isn’t a style usually associated with Speyside. But having gone down that less-trodden path, rather than following the template set by peaty island producers, Billy opted to use mainland peat from St. Fergus to kiln the barley ­– peat formed from the organic matter of ancient woodlands, which has a distinctly different character to peats formed from coastal island vegetation, imparting an oaky, sweet smoke style.

‘This incredibly exciting launch is a key milestone for us all at The GlenAllachie.’

He also decided that all Meikle Tòir’s expressions would be subjected to a lengthy fermentation time of 160 hours – nearly triple the industry average – to add a fruity, ester-rich character to the subsequent whisky.

Walker also sourced a variety of superior quality casks for maturation, and from different combinations of these four expressions of the peated distillation have now been bottled.

The Original 5-year-old was aged in first-fill Bourbon barrels, American virgin oak casks and Rye barrels, which is said to give the liquid ‘waves of stem ginger, sweet spice and oak-smoked sugar’.

After an initial period in American oak, The Sherry One underwent additional maturation in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry puncheons. The result is said to be a single malt with ‘impeccable balance between dark fruits, mocha, treacle and puffs of earthy peat smoke’.

The Chinquapin One was first aged in American oak before being transferred into Chinquapin virgin oak barrels from the Northern Ozark region of Missouri, USA. Drinkers can anticipate ‘smoked spices, roasted nuts, campfire smoke and crème brûlée’.

The Turbo, a super limited annual bottling, captures ‘the heart of the heart’ of the peated distillate – the spirit cut with the highest phenol content. The 2023 Edition, a run of just 2500 bottles, was left in three American virgin oak casks and five Oloroso Sherry hogsheads for five years. The resulting whisky is said to offer ‘a powerful punch of peat, amounting to a spirit PPM of 71, alongside notes of toasted honeycomb, burnt orange peel and worn leather’.

Commenting on the new brand, Walker said: “This incredibly exciting launch is a key milestone for us all at The GlenAllachie. Five years in the making, it represents the culmination of our endeavours since we took over the reins at the distillery. Our intention has always been to release a peated single malt, and this is no surprise to those who have followed our journey from the start.

“Every element of the production process was carefully considered to ensure our vision was met. It’s not about accelerating the journey; it’s about expanding the experience.”