In March 2021 GlenDronach released four new scotch whisky expressions from the 18th edition of its Cask Bottling series, marking the first time American drinkers would be privy to these single-cask delights. The four casks selected were plucked from 1993, 1994, 2005 and 2008, and aged in a variety of casks including Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximénez and port pipe. All are bottled at high strengths ranging from 51.3% to 59.8% ABV and are non-chill filtered to allow the full color of the barrel to shine through.
We received a sample of each at Bevvy HQ. These are our findings.
GlenDronach 2008 Cask 3017
Cask 3017 was laid down just before the start of the Obama administration, and it was allowed to doze for a dozen years in an Oloroso puncheon. All in all, the cask produced 628 bottles. At a strength of 59.8% ABV, it’s the strongest release in the litter.
It pours a bright orange-amber in color, and has a nose preoccupied by figs, sultana, sherry, spicy vanilla, dry sandalwood and salted peanuts. The spirit’s impressive heat is felt from the first blush, alongside its light, silky texture that seems to twist around the tongue with remarkable ease and speed.
Its first flavors are honey and ginger, which are briefly checked in the center by salted peanut. From there we get orange marmalade with a distinctly warm quality, as if it’s something you’re ladling over a baked dessert. The next flavor to emerge has a similar heated-dessert-topping quality to it, but this time it’s a sticky, figgy, date juice you might encounter in some warm Middle Eastern dessert. These hot flavors of citrus and stone fruit crescendo with a wonderful astringency, which ends in a finish that’s hot and clean, searing but satisfying.
GlenDronach admirers may be used to darker, richer fare, but Cask 3017 is a fascinating outlier that remixes some familiar GlenDronach flavors in a new package that’s high in heat and light in body. And though its texture and flavors on the palate may be lighter than what the average GlenDronach drinker expects, the brilliant juxtaposition of rich honeycomb with salted nuts and the sheer intensity of its hot dessert-topping finish should be enough to convince any imbiber that this is not GlenDronach Light.
59.8% ABV / $120
GlenDronach 2005 Cask 1928
Set down in 2005, Cask 1928 has spent the last 14 years inside a puncheon that once held Pedro Ximénez. It weighs in at 58% ABV and filled 612 bottles.
Its coloring is a medium reddish bronze, and it carries notes of toffee, torched marshmallow, creamy vanilla and dark prune juice on the nose. It starts out with an agreeable, slightly slippery texture and a cool mouthfeel, and ushers in darkly sweet flavors including that trademark GlenDronach blackberry followed by astringent stone fruit.
Vanilla and toffee cut in at the middle, where they’re flanked by prune juice and a wonderful salinity that contrasts beautifully with the creme brulee creaminess of the vanilla. It has a very sherried finish with an appreciated burst of minerality and a warm touch of oak, and ends with a hot flash that leaves behind a warm trail of sherry-rich, salted spice. Another GlenDronach for the sherry lovers, its minerality and salinity contrast beautifully with the dark flavors of prune and astringent stone fruit.
58% ABV / $150
GlenDronach 1994 Cask 5287
Cask 5287 entered a Port Pipe in 1994, and came out 26 years later at a strength of 51.3% ABV, to the tune of 638 bottles.
It pours a deep bronze and carries aromas of blackberry preserves, figs and a deep grape must on the nose. It is initially cool on the tongue with a luscious texture, and begins with blackberries, prune juice and sweet port wine. That dark, juicy sweetness grows more astringent at the center with apricots and peaches, before doubling down on that aforementioned quality by bringing in fig jam and blackberry preserves towards the back. We get a flash of spice at the finish, which sets off divergent epilogues of moderate, pleasing spice on one prong and sweet blackberry syrup on the other.
Cask 5287 feels like the ultimate marriage of dark and sweet, getting to the very core of that blackberry note that’s typical across all GlenDronach releases. In the case of 5287, it feels like the port pipe finish brings it to center stage.
51.3% ABV / $415
GlenDronach 1993 Cask 7102
The oldest of the lot, 7102 took a nap inside an Oloroso puncheon in 1993. It woke up 27 years later, and 633 bottles of this 51.4% ABV whisky were produced.
It pours as dark as a port wine in the glass, with a beautiful shade of rich ruby red. On the nose, big spice cake notes with crystallized ginger dominate, alongside date juice, figs in syrup and grape must.
The palate kicks off with a rich texture and initial flavors of spice cake, prunes and ginger that make for an earthy, musty and darkly sweet first impression. That spicy, unctuous beginning is cut at the center with the sweet astringency of juicy blackberries, and the experience only grows lighter and sweeter as it continues, until the back of the palate presents peach jam, raspberry preserves and quince. Its finish manifests as a velvety, texture-rich spark that ignites a long, slow-burning fuse dredged in sweet, sherried notes of prune and raisin. All in all, a reminder that some of the most satisfying flavor experiences come from heightening the contradictions.
51.4% ABV / $600