It’s been more than two years since I’ve reviewed a Glendronach. That was a review of the 15 yo Revival, which was about to go on hiatus at the time. I’m not sure what the situation is with that or the 18 yo Allardice, especially as the distillery’s ownership has changed since then, with Billy Walker moving on to Glenallachie. I’m also not sure what the new ownership has been doing with Glendronach’s single cask program—I haven’t paid much attention to that either, having gotten slowly turned off the distillery as a whole since learning about their “single cask” shenanigans. I do have a bunch of single cask Glendronachs on my shelf, however—though I haven’t purchased any in the last couple of years—and my ambivalence about the distillery does not extend to refusing to open and drink or review them. This particular cask was bottled for Abbey Whisky, a British online store. I’ve previously reviewed another Glendronach exclusive to them—an oloroso cask—and it was that one that led me to purchase this one. I opened it at one of my friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Twin Cities, and while a number of people there really liked it, I was not very convinced by it (and nor was he, I think). I’ve since taken it to my local tasting group’s most recent tasting as well and most people there loved it. I liked it a bit more on that occasion but not very much more.
It’s not just most Minnesotan whisky drinkers who disagree with my rating of this whisky. It has a very high rating on Whiskybase, and Serge gave it 89 points as well. Serge’s review is a bit confusing though as he seems to think it’s an oloroso cask and remarks a lot of oloroso notes, which I did not get much of at all over the life of the bottle (which is now finished). Anyway, here are my notes, which were taken at the midway point of the bottle. The whisky is extremely dark, by the way. I’m not sure how it acquired this colour since—as you’ll see below—I suspect this was also a re-rack job to salvage a few tired casks.
Glendronach 20, 1994 (54.8%; PX puncheon 3400 for Abbey Whisky; from my own bottle)
Nose: Pencil lead, raisins, dried tangerine peel, cherry flavoured cough syrup. With a bit more air there’s brighter citrus (lemon peel). Lots of good stuff here but it’s all a little flabby: the whole is less than the sum of the parts and there’s no real depth. With time it gets stickier with marmalade and apricot jam. Water pulls out some red fruit and more of the pencil lead.
Palate: More oak here to start and then all the stuff from the nose plus a bit of sweet pipe tobacco. The texture is thinner than the abv would suggest. On the second sip the pencil lead note expands and it all gets a bit sharp and thin. With more time it’s a little earthier. With water it gets a little more integrated.
Finish: Long. Spicy oak and then some bitter cocoa. Brighter and more sour with water.
Comments: As I say, there’s good stuff here but it doesn’t all come together. While not as flabby as cask 1240, this also feels like an attempt to rescue a number of tired casks via a big PX re-rack. There are lots of pleasurable top notes but not much beneath them. Mine’s obviously a minority view though so feel free to be skeptical.
Rating: 84 points.
What’s the wording on the label? Some say you can tell if it is a rerack via the precise form of words they use
I believe I was the one who brought that up in my original post about the Glendronach “Single Cask” issue. Some labels in those days said things like “matured in the finest oloroso sherry cask for over nineteen years” and some just had the cask type mentioned. This particular cask’s label is of the latter variety. Also possibly indicating that a number of casks were re-racked together to juice them up is the high outturn: 672 bottles after 20 years at 54.8%.
And just to repeat a point from that much earlier conversation: it’s not that casks are re-racked per se that’s the issue; it’s the likelihood that some large fraction of them are a) combined for a re-rack (which goes against the common sense understanding of “single cask”); and b) that the results on the palate suggest that some fraction of these are attempts to salvage casks that have gone flat—these are the ones that seem particularly “flabby” on the palate (and seem to come more often from PX casks).