As you may have heard, the Glendronach 15 is going on a hiatus for a few years. Presumably the distillery needs to build up aged stock for future releases. You may also know that some of the age-stated regular release Glendronachs put out since the new ownership re-opened the distillery in 2008 have in fact mostly been older than the age stated on the label. This is because the distillery was mothballed from 1996 to 2002. What this means is that a 12 yo released between 2009 (which is when it was first released) and 2014 had to be more than 12 years old (as no spirit was distilled between mid-1996 and 2002). But starting last year the 12 yo could at least theoretically have gone back to being 12 yo whisky distilled in 2002. Not so for the 15 yo. A 15 yo released in 2015 (as this bottle was) cannot contain spirit distilled in 2000 and is therefore at least 18 years old, possibly more. And so rather than continue to put ever older whisky into the 15 yo, as they did for a good number of years, the distillery seems to have decided to wait till spirit distilled in 2002 and later turns 15 years old. Presumably they’d rather save the older casks for their lucrative, so-called “single cask” releases. Can’t fault them for that.
We’ll have to wait and see (and hope) if they will in fact bring a 15 yo back (and not a NAS release of some kind). But, of course, that whisky may well be very different from that distilled before the closure; and it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to maintain the “house style” (which may be a better term than “distillery character“) that’s been established with the 15 yo “Revival”. Oh, and we should probably expect a similar announcement next year, or in early 2017, for the 18 yo, as 2015 is the last year before 2020 that their 18 yo could be made mostly from whisky that is actually 18 years old or not very much older (1996+18=2014).
(In case you’re wondering, you can find the year of bottling stamped somewhere near the base of the bottle.)
Anyway, I opened this bottle for a very small gathering of my local whisky group back in September. I found it then to be quite sulphury, almost too much so for even my not-very sulphur-phobic palate (the nose was fine). A month later, however, the sulphur had dissipated some and so I took it again to my group’s October tasting—and it did quite well there. I’d taken notes from the top of the bottle but my review below is of the much-improved second half of the bottle.
Glendronach 15, Revival (46%; 2015 release; from my own bottle)
Nose: Cola concentrate, pencil lead, dark soy sauce, dried orange peel, burnt sugar and a bit of rubber/vinyl. As it sits the rubber recedes and more of the orange peel emerges; brighter in general now, with some apricot as well and some toffee. Water brightens it up even more, pulling out more of the fruit.
Palate: Sulphur at first but it’s mellower than when the bottle was above the halfway mark, letting the orange peel come out as well. The pencil lead is back there as well along with earthier notes (dried shiitake mushrooms, beef stock) and quite a bit of salt. You’re not going to be able to ignore the sulphur though; it’s less talkative with time (moving more into the gunpowder/burnt sugar family) but it still throws off the balance. With a lot of time the sulphur calms down further and lets more fruit emerge. Water takes it further along that direction.
Finish: Long. Once the gunpowder subsides it’s the salt that lingers the longest. The late-emerging citrus hangs around on the finish as well. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is a tough one—the bottle’s much better at the very end than it was when first opened, when the sulphur was far too sharp. Even now, while the nose is quite good there’s still a bit too much sulphur on the palate. It takes a lot of time and then water to get it under control. I don’t remember my last bottle having this quality, and I remember it being much better, but that was a long time ago. It’s possible that the single cask program took away most of the good casks available for vatting. Well, it’ll be interesting to see what the profile will be like when/if Glendronach bring the 15 yo back.
Rating: 83 points. (I probably would have had it at 81 or so when the bottle was at the 3/4 full mark.