New Whiskies

Batch 137

by
GlenDronach's 2018 annual single cask releases

To review all 15 of GlenDronach’s (cask strength) new single cask releases in one sitting is quite an undertaking. Rather than split the collection up into various batches, Becky Paskin has selected seven of the most interesting bottlings for review.

All 15 expressions have been matured fully in a Sherry cask – either a PX puncheon or oloroso butt – aside from Cask #3342, a 13-year-old Port pipe. It’s an anomaly for GlenDronach, renowned for its allegiance to Sherry casks, but a triumph says Paskin, who fawns over its rosé-esque qualities; a welcome reminder of summer while in the clutches of the Beast from the East.

The remaining six expressions have been bottled from both kinds of Sherry cask and at multiple ages, from 11 to 28 years old, each demonstrating the ability of individual casks to transform a spirit’s character on its own terms. Today’s lesson is all about maturation, says Paskin.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • GlenDronach 11 Years Old, 2006, Cask #1979

    GlenDronach 11 Years Old, 2006, Cask #1979
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    57.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    Prickly, indicative of its high strength, but give it time, as patience is rewarded with toasted wood spices – vanilla, cinnamon and clove – and rich, crumbly dark fruitcake laced with ginger. Cookie dough with chocolate chips hide an inkling of lemon drops and stewed apples.

    Palate

    Really soft, is this really 57%? The texture is tongue coating, thick and velvety with upfront wood spice (which adds grit) and PX Sherry washing over the palate. Juicy ripe fruits appear toward the centre which slowly, gently, cook on the tongue becoming sweeter, toasted, caramelised.

    Finish

    Toasty and comforting.

    Conclusion

    Well-matured, although still youthfully vibrant. A heartier Sherry character than GlenDronach’s core 12-year-old bottling.

    Right place, right time

    Sunday morning baking with mum at the kitchen counter.

    GlenDronach 13 Years Old, 2004, Cask #3342

    GlenDronach 13 Years Old, 2004, Cask #3342
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    55.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fragrant & Floral
    Nose

    An alluring pink-hued, rose-gold colour, obtained from the Port that inhabited the cask prior to being filled with GlenDronach newmake. On first impression there’s a more floral side to GlenDronach than we usually see, with a hint of rose petal and Bergamot-scented Earl Grey tea (but maybe that’s the colour playing tricks on my mind). Certainly there’s rich red wine (think South African Shiraz or Cabernet) with autumnal forest fruits – blackberries, raspberries – and an accompanying nuttiness in the shape of almonds.

    Palate

    Again, surprisingly soft and awash with ripe berry fruits slathered with a vanilla cream. A glass of chilled medium-sweet rosé on the side, though some bitter tannins (from the tea?) earth it somewhat. The intensity suddenly builds in the centre into a crescendo of spices before dying back again into an indulgently soft cloud of berries, rosé and cream.

    Finish

    Soft, slow, sweet.

    Conclusion

    Sublime. It’s only £90? Race you to the store.

    Right place, right time

    Centre Court at Wimbledon as the sun breaks through.

    GlenDronach 22 Years Old, 1995, Cask #3311

    GlenDronach 22 Years Old, 1995, Cask #3311
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.3%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    An earthy dryness, with a hint of rancio displayed as dead autumnal leaves. There’s dried sultanas, apricots and… stale Christmas cake. Water, however, brings it somewhat back to life, releasing fresher fruits – red apples, tinned peaches, orange peel – and suppressing the earthiness.

    Palate

    As the nose suggests, it’s very earthy up front, with notes of rotting wood, liquorice and Angelica root.  Fruits take the form of dried, but still juicy, cherries and apricots, alongside a bitter walnut quality. With water it takes on a more savoury note still, which heightens the liquorice and, surprisingly, develops a sweet pastry case character, something akin to pecan pie.

    Finish

    Dry, bitter, but fruity.

    Conclusion

    A highly complicated dram that begs to be appreciated over a decent sitting.

    Right place, right time

    An old fruitcake lies half-eaten and forgotten in the cupboard.

    GlenDronach 24 Years Old, 1993, Cask #55

    GlenDronach 24 Years Old, 1993, Cask #55
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    56.7%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A herbal quality – cloves, anise, cardamom – akin to a decent Amaro with a hint of cola cubes. Thicker still, into black treacle and molasses; we’re verging on dark navy rum territory. There’s orange peel in the depths, and sticky toffee pudding. The sweet, rich stickiness is balanced by a savoury tone, like a chocolatey stout or salted caramel.

    Palate

    Immediately bold – thick and weighty with a syrupy texture. More of that sticky toffee pudding, with dark chewy toffee, currants and heavily salted caramel chocolates – Reisen chocolate chews. A deep charred bitterness permeates the sweetness, adding grip, while those cardamoms and anise warm the tongue.

    Finish

    Dry and long.

    Conclusion

    Punchy and bold. This is a heavy dram, the Guinness of GlenDronach.

    Right place, right time

    Mike Tyson makes a beeline for the pud.

    GlenDronach 25 Years Old, 1992, Cask #127

    GlenDronach 25 Years Old, 1992, Cask #127
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Fruity & Spicy
    Nose

    A dusty start, with sandalwood, and fresh wood shavings. It transcends into the Easter Bunny’s dream – Swiss milk chocolate, honeycomb and praline – but needs time to properly open up. Therein lies dried fruit – there’s that citrus peel, raisins and a soft apricot vibe.

    Palate

    The honeycomb continues, with a more generous helping of that dried fruit from the nose. The chocolate follows, bitter and crumbly this time, leading to a slight prickle toward the middle as the heat from the alcohol builds. It’s not the strongest GlenDronach in the batch, but certainly feels it.

    Finish

    A touch bitter, and really quite dry.

    Conclusion

    Matured in the same kind of cask as #55 and for only an additional year, yet the difference is remarkably striking. A real lesson in a cask’s individual influence on its whisky.

    Right place, right time

    The Easter Bunny buried alive in a makeshift coffin, along with all his eggs.

    GlenDronach 27 Years Old, 1990, Cask #1014

    GlenDronach 27 Years Old, 1990, Cask #1014
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    50.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    A big nose; a full-frontal Sherry bomb. We’re back to GlenDronach’s Christmas cake character – baking spices, rich sponge and dried fruit covered in marzipan. Water releases aromas of thick toffee sauce and caramel-coated popcorn, along with fresher fruit notes of conference pear and lemon rind.

    Palate

    A thick, oily texture, almost syrupy, permeated by a prickling as those wood spices tap dance across the tongue against a backdrop of rich toffee sauce, Christmas cake, almonds and dried fruit. With water it becomes bitter, like an intensely dark chocolate verging on raw cocoa, or an overly tannic red wine.

    Finish

    Tingly, but long.

    Conclusion

    Full maturation for 27 years in a PX puncheon has had its desired effect – big, bold and rich. Sherry fans will be pleased, although I’d like to see more complexity.

    Right place, right time

    Someone switches the cream for fruitcakes at the school fair’s ‘pie the teacher’ fundraiser.

    GlenDronach 28 Years Old, 1989, Cask #5476

    GlenDronach 28 Years Old, 1989, Cask #5476
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    49.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Highland
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Vibrant, refined and indulgent. The fruit is rich – apricot liqueur, dates, dried cherries coated in dark chocolate, Sherry-soaked mince pie filling and dried citrus peel (clementines, lemons) – the latter intensified with the addition of water.

    Palate

    A more delicately Sherried palate than we’ve seen from the older GlenDronachs thus far, with the layers of raisins, walnut, dried fruit and spices far more discernable. Stone fruit, such as plums, apricots, nectarines interweave throughout, while deeper, earthier base notes of prunes, coffeebeans, and a dying coal fire add weight. It gets fruitier still with water but the balance is lost.

    Finish

    Earthy yet fruity, and long.

    Conclusion

    An elegantly matured GlenDronach, again from a PX puncheon that has nurtured its spirit more delicately.

    Right place, right time

    Layers of sounds a la Jain.

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