La Alazana: The New Player on the World Whisky Scene

A distillery has come up in the Patagonian region of Argentina. It’s called La Alazana after the farm it is located in. The farm, in turn, is named after a favourite horse, a chestnut mare, to be precise. “Alazan” is the colour of copper in Spanish, and this does very well as a name for a whisky distillery located east of the foothills of the Andes. There is something very romantic about all of this. Very pastoral and idyllic, in its situation in the land of the gaucho. It also confirms the growing, world-wide popularity of whisky. But of course, we are aware that Argentina has always loved its alcohol.

Set in the Patagonian region of Las Golondrinas (which means “swallows” in Spanish, like the bird), La Alazana became the first licensed whisky distillery in Argentina in 2011. Established by Nestor Serenelli and Pablo Tognetti, it released its first single malt in the autumn of 2014. Serenelli said at the time, they were “working hard to produce a “Scotch style” single malt whisky, rigorously respecting their traditional elaboration process of double distillation in copper pot stills.” They use water, fresh from the springs coming down from the Piltriuitron Mountain. Las Golondrinas, as is apparent, is particularly well-suited to the making of whisky, by virtue of its topography. It comes as no surprise then that the distillery has sprung up in the very spot it has. Serenelli and Tognetti set it up with the thought in mind that they can now produce high quality, fruity single malt whisky. Besides, La Alazana is a most picturesque site for whisky production.

From milling to bottling, the entire procedure is completed within the distillery from beginning to end. Charted below is the description of the stages of the whisky making process at La Alazana.

The ingredients are barley malt, yeast and water. The barley used is grown and malted in the humid Argentinian Pampas, and the yeast used is whisky yeast.

The ground malt is mixed into hot water and left in the mash tun. The enzymes, water and starches turn into sugars that can ferment, and allow the yeast to start reacting. The liquid, called the “wort”, is then filtered out, leaving the “draff” behind, which is fed to the horses in the farm’s Therapeutic Riding Centre.

The wort is then filtered into the “washback” and the yeast works for about five days. In this time, the sugar turns into ethanol and carbon dioxide, along with some other compounds, and this is what imparts flavour to the whisky. The fermentation process (approximately 120 hours) produces alcohol which is separated and is put through a process of double distillation – in the unique style of La Alazana. To achieve this, the distillery is equipped with a 1,400 litre wash still, and a 600 litre spirit still, both of which were specially designed and locally made out of copper which is of a high degree of purity.

At the end of the procedure of double distillation, the whisky is matured in Limousine oak casks which are ex-sherry and ex-cognac. The reaction between the spirit and the wood, and the action of the mountain air leads to the production of the delicate, mellow amber La Alazana whisky.

Even though the actual capacity of the distillery is about 90 casks per year, they produce only about a third of that volume, and that is a conscious decision with a view to ensuring premium quality. This Patagonian single malt promises to have a distinctive character of its own. It looks all set to hold its own in the global arena of the major players.