The GlenDronach touched down in San Francisco last week with an intimate private tasting event.
Located in the Scottish Highlands, The GlenDronach draws its name from the Dronach Burn, its source of fresh water. The brand is known for its line of richly-sherried single malt scotch whiskies.
The GlenDronach distillery was founded in 1826, and has seen its ownership change several times over its near 200 year history. It was recently purchased and is now owned by Brown-Forman, a leading American spirits company.
As a fan of sherried whiskies, I had previously enjoyed The GlenDronach 15 Revival, and was eager to try additional expressions in The GlenDronach lineup. Led by GlenDronach Brand Ambassador Rory Glasgow, we tasted four different single malt expressions—including a limited edition release—while learning about the whiskies as well as the brand’s heritage.
Each dram was first tasted neat, then again with a drop of water, before continuing on to the next expression. After the entire lineup was tasted, each dram was then tasted again for a second time—which is good procedure, and also just fun.
Tasting began with The GlenDronach 12, a heavily-sherried expression first aged in Oloroso sherry casks, finished in Pedro Ximénez casks, and bottled at 43% ABV.
- Color: a medium golden amber
- Nose: dried raisins, apples, and hints of sweetness
- Mouth: sweet, but not overly sweet, with dried fruits and some subtle notes of vanilla and other spices.
- Finish: a nice tapering finish that was smooth and not too hot.
For fans of sherried single malts, this would be a nice daily sipper. It was the sweetest of the evening’s lineup, but as mentioned already, it was not overly sweet—and drier than I remembered The GlenDronach 15 Revival to be.
GlenDronach 18 Allardice
Next up was The GlenDronach 18 Allardice. Named for the distillery’s founder, it’s aged entirely in Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46% ABV.
- Color: a dark golden amber.
- Nose: raisins, dried fruits, toffee and nuts; mellower than The GlenDronach 12; aromas open up with a drop of water.
- Mouth: rich sweetness of toffee and fudge; rounder, drier and a heavier mouthfeel than The GlenDronach 12; flavor opens up with a drop of water but thins out on the finish.
- Finish: a smooth, lingering finish, with trailing notes of coffee, dried fruits, and spice.
I prefer this dram neat. While I did enjoy this on the front palate with a drop of water, the thinned-out finish leaves a bit more to be desired at the end.
GlenDronach 21 Parliament
Our third dram was The GlenDronach 21 Parliament, which is aged in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks—like its younger 12-year-old counterpart—but bottled at a higher 48% ABV.
- Color: a chocolate amber, slightly darker hue than The GlenDronach 18.
- Nose: same familiar raisins, apples, and dried fruits, but hotter on the nose.
- Mouth: bold flavor with chocolate coffee notes, almost like a toasted pastry; reminds me of dessert; flavor opens up and softens with a drop of water, but doesn’t thin out like the 18 year.
- Finish: a bolder finish than the previous expressions, with the flavor expanding and evolving on the back palate.
Equally enjoyable neat or with a drop of water.
GlenDronach 1993, Cask #415 (24 Year Old Limited Release)
The final dram of the evening was The GlenDronach 1993, Cask #415, a limited-release single cask expression that was aged in a sherry butt for 24 years and bottled at cask strength—51.8% ABV.
- Color: a chocolate amber; slightly lighter hue than The GlenDronach 21 despite the longer time spent in the wood.
- Nose: rich chocolate and coffee notes, aromas of dried fruits and spices; noticeably hotter on the nose than all previous expressions.
- Mouth: chocolate toffee cake, toasted caramel with raisins, blackberries, with hints of pepper and vanilla; thick round mouthfeel, full-bodied and oily; hotter and heavier on the tongue.
- Finish: long finish with lots of depth and a bold trailing flavor that goes on and on, softening and drying out as it spreads around the mouth and travels down the throat.
This was my favorite dram of the evening. I found it simply lovely and delicious, with or without a drop of water. The suggested retail price is $675 for a 750ml bottle, but has been seen on the secondary market for about $550. So… it’s not cheap, but it lives up to its price tag.
While I do not subscribe to the mantra that “older is better” by any means, it certainly was the case with this lineup—my preference being oldest to youngest. The 21-year-old and 24-year-old whiskies were the most memorable of the bunch, with the higher ABV of the single cask 24-year-old edging out the younger expression in boldness, depth, and complexity.
After tasting the lineup once from youngest to oldest, I circled back to the younger expressions and found them getting a bit lost the second time around. This was not unexpected—particularly after sampling the bolder flavors and complexity of The GlenDronach 21 and the 24-year-old single cask—and also because they’d been sitting around for awhile after that drop of water was added. Independently, each bottling stands on its own and make for a fine dram.
I’m a fan of sherry cask-matured whiskies, though I’m particular about what I purchase, and find that many of the sherried brands available today aren’t worth the money. But The GlenDronach is one whisky that will become a regular in my liquor cabinet.