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The GlenDronach single malt has developed a reputation as the go-to dram for lovers of heavily sherried whisky over the last decade or so and, so long as the vast majority of spirit produced onsite continues to be matured in this way, this situation seems unlikely to change any time soon.
Fans of the distillery were left bereft however, when it was announced in 2015 that low stocks had led to the discontinuation of the extremely popular 15 year old ‘Revival’ single malt. Its loss was mourned on a dramatic scale with many holding on to the hope that it would one day return.
Various rumours have circulated over the years following its disappearance but it wasn’t until an apparently leaked US label application appeared online earlier this year that it began to look like something was afoot. Sure enough, this most anticipated of malts has now returned to the market, albeit in a slightly different format, and at a slightly inflated price.
GlenDronach was founded in 1826 by a group of local farmers led by James Allardice. Like many of its contemporaries, the distillery has had its ups and downs over its near 200 year lifespan with the most recent closure coming in 1996 and lasting until 2002.
In 2008, GlenDronach was acquired by the Billy Walker-led BenRiach Distilling Co and it was they who originally launched the Revival single malt in 2009. The distillery’s recent closure had created a huge gap in mature stocks however and distillers were forced to use older spirit to fill out the blend. By the time Revival was pulled in 2015, it would in all probability, have been closer to 19 or 20 years old. At least.
Is it really any wonder this richly sherried, 20-year-old-masquerading-as-a-15-year-old was so popular? More to the point, is it any wonder the company deemed it unsustainable?
Now of course, this beloved single malt has returned, 16 years after the distillery resumed production in 2002, with the inevitable question of ‘How does it compare?’ hanging over it. For me, given what we know about the dram in it’s original form, it is a rather unfair comparison to make. For the record however, having tasted the two side by side at the Good Spirits Co. in Glasgow, the new actually 15 year old put up a decent fight against a 2015 offering, though couldn’t quite compete with the weight and depth of the sherry influence found in its predecessor. As a new-to-market, 15 year old single malt however, it is a very fine dram in it’s own right.
Now matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso casks where the original was the latter only, it is once again bottled at 46% abv and retails for around £60 a bottle.
Smell: Now that’s a lot of Sherry! Raisins, Sultanas, Figs and Prunes, over-brewed Tea, Maple Syrup & Burnt Toast.
Taste: Chocolate Raisins, Maple Syrup, Treacle, Winter Spices… Nutmeg, Clove, Ginger… Ripe Berries and drying Oak.
Value for Money: Whilst it appears pricier than its ancestor, I suspect the original Revival wouldn’t be far off this price now had it stuck around since 2015. In any case, it’s a good enough dram to warrant the price.
Although the almost identical labeling invites comparison with the original version, this new Revival is very much a different dram. Still GlenDronach, still sherry dominated, but a unique and new experience all the same. Where the original was matured exclusively in Oloroso casks, we now have a combination of both Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez, which helps to add a little extra juiciness and treacle-like consistency. Quite simply, if this was the first ever release of a 15 year old GlenDronach, without the back story, it would be universally acclaimed. For me, master blender Rachel Barrie and her team at the distillery have done the best possible job in bringing this wonderful malt back to the market, one can only hope that it sticks around permanently this time around.