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GlenDronach distillery was founded in 1826 but wasn’t released as a single malt until 1968 when the site was under the ownership of William Teacher & Sons. Since 2008 the distillery has enjoyed something of a renaissance however after it was bought by the BenRiach Distillery Company who cemented its reputation as one of the finest sherry-casked drams on the market. The current core range of official bottlings comprises of an 8-year-old dubbed ‘The Hielan”, ‘The Original’ 12-year-old, an 18-year-old ‘Allardice’, a 21-year-old ‘Parliament’ and now even a ‘Peated’ expression. Until very recently, the pick of the bunch was ‘Revival’ a 15-year-old beauty of a dram that had to be discontinued due to low stocks.
GlenDronach regularly bottles a selection of intriguing single cask offerings with this particular dram being chosen for the Green Welly in Tyndrum, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the whisky shop there. It may not look much from the outside, but the Green Welly is a vital stop on the A82 north from Glasgow to the West Highlands and the whisky shop features an outstanding range of bottles. Distilled on 05/03/2003, the whisky matured for 11 years in a Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheon (cask number 5691) before being bottled in January of 2015 at a cask strength of 54.4%.
Smell: Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, Christmas Cake and Marzipan along with Coffee and Orange.
Taste: Chocolate and Cinnamon, Raisins & Sultanas, Orange and Nuts. A satisfying, oily feel in the mouth ensures the dram leaves an impression long after it’s gone.
Thoughts: This is a wonderful example of PX-matured whisky. GlenDronach is usually aged in Oloroso but on this evidence they might want to think about upping the PX content. Very much a sherry bomb, with little in the way of spirit character. This one is all about the cask and its previous contents. It’s rich and sweet and rather sippable, even at its full cask strength. An absolute gem of a dram. Excellent.
Why sherry casks? Scottish distilleries originally relied on local wood for their casks but as the industry grew, demand began to outstrip supply. Conveniently, however, the 19th century saw vast amounts of sherry consumed in the UK which arrived on a one-way ticket from Spain in wooden casks made of European Oak. This led to an available stockpile of empty sherry casks ready to be cherry-picked by entrepreneurial whisky producers. Of course, it soon became apparent that these second-hand casks, with the previous contents still embedded in the grain of the wood, brought extra dimensions of character, not to mention colour, to whisky. To this day, the use of sherry wood produces some of the most richly flavoured whiskies in the world although this may not last forever. Availability of sherry casks is something of a problem, with consumption of sherry slipping into decline for decades now. It seems a terrible shame, but this shortage of sherry casks has been to the great benefit of another spirits industry, blossoming across the Atlantic… More on that in my next review.
Fortunately, for the time being, at least, there is still a plentiful supply of wonderful sherry matured whiskies available with GlenDronach offering some of the very best value for money options.