It was only a matter of time before I got to GlenDronach. I’ve somewhat fell in love with this whisky over the last few years and have been looking forward to reviewing this particular bottling since I started the blog. I mustn’t get ahead of myself though…
GlenDronach distillery was founded back in 1826 but wasn’t released as a single malt until 1968 when the distillery was owned by William Teacher & Sons. Then, in 2008 there came something of a renaissance when the BenRiach Distillery Company took over the running of the place. Since then, it’s reputation has gone from strength to strength, becoming a favourite with those in the know. The distillery has five bottlings in their core range, an 8 year old dubbed ‘The Hielan”, ‘The Original’ 12 year old, an 18 year old ‘Allardice’, 21 year old ‘Parliament’ and now, a non age statment ‘Peated’ expression. Until very recently, they also had a fantastic 15 year old named ‘Revival’ which was a real beauty of a whisky. However, due to low stocks of sufficiently aged whisky, it has unfortunately disappeared. Such is the way with whisky. There may however, still be a few bottles on shelves here and there – my advice to you is if you find one, buy it.
GlenDronach also release regular single cask bottlings – batches limited to a few hundred bottles – and I’m going to be reviewing one of these. This particular single cask was chosen and bottled for the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, Scotland to celebrate 50 years of the whisky shop there. Which, incidentally is a great wee shop should you find yourself up that way, with an extensive selection of single malts including a lot of non standard bottlings – well worth a raid on your way past. This particular bottle was distilled on 05/03/2003, then matured in a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon (cask number 5691 to be exact) for 11 years until it was bottled in January 2015 at cask strength of 54.4%. I am the proud owner of bottle 324 of 649. Now hows that for practical information on a label?
It’s really quite a wonderful dram this, on the nose are rich notes of Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, Christmas Cake and Marzipan with Coffee and a little Orange. At 54.4% it packs a real punch on the palate and benefits from a little water – although it doesn’t need much. It bursts onto the tongue with Chocolate and Cinnamon, Raisins & Sultanas, Orange Zest and a faintly nutty quality. It’s satisfyingly oily in the mouth and leaves an impression long after it’s gone. To be honest, it doesn’t get much better than this.
The Scores About the scoring system
Smell: 19 / 20. Very rich nose that conjures up images of luxurious festive feasting and celebratory drams around the fireplace.
Taste: 19 / 20. For sheer flavour GlenDronach is about as good as it gets and this single cask is no exception. Excellent – the only problem is keeping it sensible because once you’ve had one, you will want another.
Value: 9/10. Think this came in around £50 a bottle. Quite frankly it’s a great purchase and still would have been had it cost a lot more.
Total: 47 / 50. Smells great, tastes phenomenal and very reasonably priced. Everything I look for in a whisky and a great example of what a sherry cask can do.
So why sherry casks? Scottish distilleries originally relied on wood from English forests for their casks but, as the industry grew, an alternative source was required to keep up with demand. In the 19th century a huge amount of sherry was being consumed in the UK, which of course led to a stockpile of empty sherry casks lying around. The producers of scotch were nothing if not bold and experimentation with these extremely available casks was surely inevitable. Of course, the results were sensational: it soon became apparent that these second hand casks, with the previous content still soaked into the wood added a whole new character, not to mention colour, to the scotch spirit. To this day the use of sherry wood produces some of the most richly flavoured whiskies in the world. This may not go on for ever though… availability of sherry casks is something of a problem these days since the consumption of sherry has been in decline for decades. Some whisky distilleries are even paying sherry producers to make and mature sherry, just so the casks can be made available for whisky. It seems a terrible shame, but this shortage of sherry casks has been to the benefit of another industry. One just over the atlantic from Scotland – and you can read about that, in my next blog.
Fortunately though, for the time being at least, we can still find a plentiful supply of some wonderful sherry matured whiskies – like those made by GlenDronach for example.