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James Allardice of GlenDronach
GlenDronach distillery was founded in 1826 by a group of local farmers led by the charismatic entrepreneur James Allardice. An astute businessman, Allardice’s promotional skills have become the stuff of legend.
Shortly after the distillery began to produce spirit, Allardice made his way to Edinburgh to drum up some business. Taking a cask of his whisky with him, he visited the bars and hostelries of the capital city but was met with little interest from the publicans he encountered. Disheartened, he had decided to turn in for the night when he was met by two of Edinburgh’s working girls.
The two ladies asked Allardice to buy them a drink. Instead, he tempted them to his lodgings on the promise of more whisky than they could drink. The next day, the women returned, looking for more of the same. Only this time, they brought their friends. Allardice was due to head north that day but agreed to leave the remainder of his cask with his new acquaintances to distribute as they saw fit. Edinburgh’s working girls had quite the time of it that day and their revelry did not go unnoticed. Before long, talk of Allardice’s whisky had spread like wildfire through the city streets. Within the year, GlenDronach was on sale not just in Edinburgh, but in London, too.
The distillery’s early success was not to last sadly, as fire almost completely destroyed the site in 1837. Allardice would be declared bankrupt shortly afterwards. In the years that followed, GlenDronach passed from one owner to the next, even coming under government control for a short time during the First World War.
In 2008 a new era began as the distillery was taken over by the BenRiach Distillery Co. led by master blender Billy Walker. Under his guidance, the GlenDronach began to earn respect across the world for its well-aged, sherry matured whisky.
In 2016 came the surprising announcement that the company was to be sold to Brown Forman, owner of Jack Daniels. What this will mean for the GlenDronach going forward is a little too early to tell but the next few years promise to be interesting if nothing else.
Smell: Burnt Toffee, Honey and Shortbread with Vanilla, a touch of Heather and a generous dollop of Sherry.
Taste: Honey and Vanilla here as well, with Sherry, Apple and some warming Spice.
Thoughts: The GlenDronach 12-year-old is a fine single malt, yet it rather pales in comparison with some of the distillery’s other offerings. The discontinued 15-year-old was of quite staggering quality and their 18 and 21-year-old bottlings are equally impressive. At a bottling strength of 43%, the 12-year-old can’t quite compete on the same level but it’s still a fine entry-level dram at a reasonable price. GlenDronach is renowned for its sherry casks. Here these take the form of less intense refill casks that don’t dominate the whisky in quite the same way, what you get instead is a pleasant balance of spirit and oak.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.