Speaking of independent bottlers allowing us to experience malts that are outside the profile a distillery is officially associated with, and following Monday’s bourbon cask Aberlour, here is a Glendronach from a bourbon cask. It was bottled in the Whisky Galore series that Duncan Taylor put out through the mid-2000s. Usually (always?) bottled at 46% and without added colour or chill-filtration, this label put out a lot of high quality malt at highly reasonable prices. The name was changed later to NC2. As the whisky loch of the 1980s dried up the volume of quality whisky available at reasonable prices dropped dramatically across the board and the current incarnation of Duncan Taylor’s affordable line, Battlehill (often sold at Total Wine in the US) seems to offer fewer hidden treasures. Glendronach itself is, of course, highly identified with sherry cask whisky, especially the alleged “single casks” they began to put out in large numbers in the late 2000s and on. What does their whisky taste like when not from a sherry cask? Well, the results from this virgin oak cask were not encouraging, but virgin oak is a very different beast from ex-bourbon wood. Let’s see what this one is like.
Glendronach 13, 1990 (46%; Whisky Galore; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Lemon, toasted oak, cereals, malt. A lovely bourbon cask nose. On the second sniff there’s some apple cider as well and the malt gets muskier; some leafy/herbal notes too now. With time the citrus expands. More of that with water as the oak recedes and the acid comes to the fore.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose but with the oak in the lead—not that it’s tannic, just spicy. Not as much of the cereals or musky malt as on the nose though. Nice oily texture and a good drinking strength. With time the bitter notes begin to move from oak in the direction of lime zest and some sweet floral notes begin to emerge. The char from the finish begins to show up earlier as well. Okay, let’s see what water does. It pushes the oak back and pulls out more of the citrus here as well along with more of the florals.
Finish: Long. The oak gets more bitter here but not overwhelmingly so. With time a bit of char emerges at the very end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Very pleasant, very drinkable bourbon cask whisky if not particularly distinctive—it tastes like it could be from any of several Speyside distilleries. With all the heavy sherry maturation of the distillery’s trademark releases, none of these notes really survive into the bottle. Have they put out any older ex-bourbon casks? They must have. I liked the nose better neat and the palate better with water.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Michael for the sample! (See his review here.)