It’s time for a fireside dram methinks; this new non-age-statement release from the good ladies and gents at Glendronach distillery is aptly timed! In the wake of this year’s Malt Maniac’s award announcements, the distillery has once again swept a host of accolades including “Supreme Winner” in the ultra-premium category and several Gold Medals besides. Of course, the Maniacs are well known for their love of old sherried malts and indeed these lofty winners were all from the now legendary early 70′s stock.
You needn’t think that Glendronach is simply the preserve of the well-heeled, and indeed favourably connected given the scarcity of some single casks, whisky-fondler though. Both the Glendronach 18 year old ”Allardice” and the 8 year old “Octarine” and the took bronze and silver medals respectively, which is no mean feat in a competition where all samples are tasted blind and by a number of sometimes disparate palates. Here though we have the latest on-going introduction to the core range, let’s see if it has what it takes to take a place among next year’s medal winners.
As decades have rolled by the world of sherried whisky has changed dramatically. The days when old oloroso shipping casks were a primary vessel for Scotch storage have shifted to a point where the bourbon barrel is now king, with sherry maturation dominated by so called "bespoke" casks, seasoned with fresh sherry, tiered solera casks or sometimes those dressed with paxarette. These changes have affected both the flavour and perception of sherry influenced whisky dramatically, be it the clearly sulphur tainted examples we find, or the unavoidable comparisons to the remarkable Macallan whiskies, Glenfarclas or Springbank sherry monsters distilled before the mid 70s. While all whisky has changed, well-sherried malts have seen a particularly notable transformation.
Glendronach is another distillery marked by the use of ex-sherry casks, being perhaps the shining light of the style over the last few years. The 1972 single casks have led this charge, every bit as truly exceptional as the best of those previously mentioned and just as desirable for it. While, as was bee commented in our review of the Glendronach Grandeur, it’s clearly difficult to avoid focussing on such staggeringly good single cask bottlings, there is much to recommend in the distillery’s more accessible wares. The 15 year old Glendronach was particularly well received after the range was re-launched under the guiding hand of Billy Walker’s BenRiach Distillery Company, showing a wonderfully old-style sherried personality. Some batches have displayed a little more sulphur than would please certain tasters though and speaking personally it is this 18 year old, named “Allardice” in honour of the distillery’s founder, that has held greater consistency.
Since being purchased by Billy Walker’s BenRiach distillery company, GlenDronach distillery has gone from strength to strength. The single cask releases we have seen over the last few years have shown just how stunning some of the stock resting in the distillery’s warehouses really is. Many awards have been won and praise has been heaped upon Glendronach from just about every respected whisky commentator and reviewer.
The name of the distillery alone instantly evokes images of rich, heavily sherried whisky abounding in both complexity and character, with single casks from 1972 being particularly spectacular examples of just this style. The Glendronach 31 year old Grandeur shares this maturation but is a vatting of several sherry casks, bottled in 2010 and at a natural cask strength of 45.8%.