Behold, I, a wise man from the East, bring to you this day tidings of a whisky born of virgin oak!
Glendronach—the distillery that understands the word “single” in a manner different from the rest of us—is almost entirely associated with sherry cask-matured whisky. Very little non-sherried Glendronach ever seems to make out into the world, but some does from time to time. This cask is one of them. However, it is not likely to be one that can give me a sense of what Glendronach’s spirit is like away from the heavy influence of sherry that has become their calling card. This because not only is it not a sherry cask, it is a virgin oak cask, and chances are always good with virgin oak casks that the oak—not yet tamed by serial maturations of whisky—will be very talkative if not entirely overpowering. Let’s see if that proves to be the case here.
Glendronach 10, 2002 (57.1%; virgin oak hogshead 4530; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Extremely bourbony with corn syrup, caramel corn and fresh sawed lumber (pine and oak). On the second sniff there’s a green herbal note as well. With a lot more time there’s some vanilla and toffee as well. Water pulls out more vanilla and toffee and cream along with some red fruit (cherry); the oak and pine are still very present though.
Palate: Pretty much as predicted by the nose with some orange mixed in there too. Hot but not undrinkable at full strength. Turns bitter as I swallow. As it sits and gets some air the lumber backs off a bit but there’s still that heavy pine “sweetness”. Okay, let’s add water. Water pushes the wood back further and pulls out some pepper and more of the citrus.
Finish: Long. Heavy oak and the bitterness is somewhat vegetal. The bitterness recedes with time but the oaky bite does not. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This gets better with time and water but, on the whole, is just too hot and oaky and herbal for my liking. It’s not a bad whisky but it’s just not in any of my preferred styles. Bourbon drinkers will likely find more in it to like.
Rating: 78 points.
Thanks to Michael for the sample! (See his review here.)