Of my two previous Glendronach reviews one was of a 21 yo,1993 from an oloroso cask that was quite good and the other was of a 23 yo, 1990 from a PX cask that was mediocre. This one is also from an oloroso cask and also from 1993; and like the other 1993 was also bottled for a store, in this case for Abbey Whisky in the UK. And where that was cask 23, this is cask 33—and since these were both distillery releases the proximity of the number suggests a strong likelihood that they were from the same distillation run and perhaps even the same parcel of quality sherry casks. So all the signs seem to point to a good outcome. Then again not every cask can be a winner. And it’s also the case that given the lack of clarity of what “single cask” means at Glendronach this may not all have started out in oloroso casks, and may have been re-racked into a cask 33 in a completely different year (if you read my piece on Glendronach’s “single cask” shenanigans you might remember that I was told that the cask numbers are often recycled every year).
Glendronach 20, 1993 (59.1%; oloroso cask #33 for Abbey Whisky; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Leather, polished oak, plum jam, dark soy sauce and caramel. The wood turns a bit dusty after a few beats and a lot of citrus joins the party (orange); saltier too now and there’s a whiff of wood smoke to go with it all. The wood gets stronger as it sits but the fruit expands as well, keeping the balance. After a couple of minutes it gets meatier, with some hoisin sauce slathered on charred pork. With even more time the wood backs off and it’s all about the fruit. With water it’s about the fruit even more and now it’s sweeter, stickier fruit: fig and apricot jam with some dark honey mixed in.
Palate: Fruity arrival with the plum and the citrus (some lemon peel to go with the orange) playing very well together. Despite the strong woody notes on the nose the oak is not at all obtrusive here, merely providing a bit of a frame for the fruit: nothing tannic or astringent about it. On the second sip here’s the leather and some dried tangerine peel (verging on the bitter). Brighter on the third sip with lemon but also increasing sticky sweetness behind it. Oh, and I forgot to say that it’s remarkably mellow and drinkable at full strength with a very rich mouthfeel. With a little more time there’s some tannic grip but it works quite nicely here. Okay, time to add some water. Water seems to bring out more wood on the palate; the fruit’s still there but the balance seems a bit off now (did I add too much water?).
Finish: Long. Nothing new develops and it gets a little spicier and more peppery as it fades out. Water keeps the fruit and sticky sweetness going even longer but the pepper is still there too.
Comments: Well, I don’t know what the antecedents of this cask were but this is excellent stuff. Not the most complex but this is flawless sherried whisky with perfect balance between the fruit and the wood. Wish I’d bought a bottle. (The nose was far superior to the palate though.)
Rating: 90 points.
Thanks to gimmeadram for the sample!