In February this year, when Billy Walker was replaced as BenRiach’s master by Rachel Barrie, some people were wondering what his next professional steps would be. His retirement seemed unfathomable. Let us face it, someone who first returned to proper glory one of the nearly forgotten distilleries (BenRiach), reminded the world about the existence of another (GlenDronach), and introduced another one (Glenglassaugh) to the exclusive club of single malt whisky brands, and then sold all three of them to a global giant Brown-Forman for the colossal sum of £281m, could not simply disappear. And he did not.
Whisky media on the internet report that Billy Walker is now the head of a consortium which has just entered agreement with Pernod Ricard to purchase Glenallachie distillery. Chivas Brothers, a subsidiary of the French company, the current owner of Glenallachie, has just signed an agreement with the Glenallachie Consortium, consisting of Billy Walker, Graham Stevenson and Trisha Savage (each with about 30 years’ experience in the whisky business) to purchase the distillery for – as yet – undisclosed sum. The agreement includes also the Glenallachie single malt whisky brand, and also MacNair’s and White Heather blended whiskies. It also includes the stocks of whisky maturing in the warehouses. The final transaction will be concluded by the end of 2017, and we can hope for further details to be disclosed then.
Glenallachie is a relatively unknown distillery, founded in 1967, located near Aberlour, at the foot of Ben Rinnes on Speyside. Ever since it was founded, it has been operating as a small-scale malt whisky still providing blenders with a delicate and fruity whisky for their blended whiskies, notable the Clan Campbell. It was mothballed in 1987, and two years later, in 1989 Glenallachie was purchased by Pernod Ricard. The number of stills was doubled and the production capacity eventually enhanced to the present 4 million litres of pure alcohol per year. Despite that, apart from rather numerous independent bottlings, there has been no official bottling of Glenallachie single malt whisky. It was in 2005 that the first expressions bottled by the producer were made available. It was, however, a limited edition, available only from Visitors Centres at the company’s distilleries. One of the expected results of the current takeover is the new owners trying to make Glenallachie widely available as single malt by launching a couple of official editions. Whisky aficionados all over the world will be all too happy to welcome such a move.