GlenDronach distillery was founded 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 no age statement ‘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. There may however, still be a few bottles available here and there – my advice to you is if you find one, buy it.
GlenDronach also release regular single cask bottlings, one of which I’m going to review. This particular cask was chosen and bottled for the whisky shop at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, Scotland to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Incidentally, it’s a great wee shop with an extensive selection of single malts including lots of non standard bottlings and is well worth a stop on your way north. This particular expression 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 a whopping cask strength of 54.4%.
I have to say, it’s really quite a wonderful dram: on the nose are rich notes of Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon, Christmas Cake and Marzipan along with Coffee and Orange. At 54.4% it packs a real punch on the palate and benefits from a little water – though it doesn’t need much. It arrives carrying notes of Chocolate and Cinnamon, Raisins & Sultanas, Orange and Nuts. There’s a satisfying, oily feel in the mouth which will ensure the dram leaves an impression long after it’s gone. In all honesty, 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 up there with the best I’ve tasted. Excellent stuff.
Value: 9/10. Came in around £50 a bottle. Quite frankly it’s a great purchase at that price.
Total: 47 / 50. Smells great, tastes phenomenal and is 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 local wood for their casks but as the industry grew, demand began to outstrip supply. Conveniently, the 19th century saw vast amounts of sherry consumed in the UK. Sherry which arrived on a one-way ticket from Spain in wooden casks 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 soaked into the wood brought extra dimensions of character, not to mention colour, to scotch 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 though… availability of sherry casks is something of a problem as the consumption of sherry has been in decline for decades. It seems a terrible shame, but this shortage of sherry casks has been to the benefit of a Spirits industry on the other side of the atlantic – and you can read about that, in my next blog.
Fortunately, for the time being at least, there is still a plentiful supply of wonderful sherry matured whiskies available – not least those produced by GlenDronach.